Kwang Cho Choe

Mr. Kwang Cho Choe is a 73-year-old first generation divided family member who was separated from his family during the Korean War (1950-1953). He was 16 years old at the time and couldn’t go back to his hometown in Hwang-Hae-Do.

After having various jobs in South Korea, he immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, opened his own carpentry business, and succeeded in raising his own family. He worked as a carpenter for his time in the states and had to retire because of a herniated disc affecting his leg.

He didn’t have a picture of his parents and five younger siblings in North Korea and even forgot how his parents looked like. He has what I call, separation induced prosopagnosia (inability to recognize faces).

When asked if he’s ever had dreams of his family members, he thought about it, said no, and asked rhetorically, “Shouldn’t one dream about their parents every so often in one’s lifetime?”

The hardest thing for Mr. Choe was thinking about how much his folks must have suffered before they passed away. As the first son, he must have felt personal responsibility and guilt for a long time. He said that if anything, he’d want to know what happened to them.