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Elizabeth Kim, A Korean War Orphan.

878 words - 4 pages

Ten Thousand SorrowsAs a little girl walking with her mother, Elizabeth Kim hears herself called a "honhyol," "a despicable name that meant nonperson, mixed race, animal." Shortly after the end of the Korean War, the mother had returned from Seoul to her native village in shame, pregnant with a GI's child. Mother and daughter live as outcasts in a hut at the edge of town, and from the moment she can walk, the child works alongside her "Omma" in the rice fields.When the girl is about 4, her grandfather and her uncle demand she be sold as a servant. When her mother refuses, the men string the woman up in her own house. Kim, a witness to this "honor killing," still sees "those milk-white feet" twitch, as if in a dance, then grow still.As a "honhyol, female, nameless, without a birth date," she is a fourfold embodiment of shame. Dumped at an orphanage run by Christian missionaries, she joins the other forgotten children, "the product of brief liaisons between soldiers on their way through and women on their way to hell." The kids are locked for hours at a time into cribs that look more like animal shelters. Occasionally, prospective parents peer into various cribs, looking for a cute specimen to adopt.After hopeless months in her cage, Kim is finally adopted, sight unseen, by a missionary couple in central California. "Mom" and "Dad" are rigid fundamentalist Christians, and the girl they name Elizabeth begins a long sojourn in her own hell.Although she learns English quickly and is bright and docile, a model child, she earns only scorn and an almost unbelievable cruelty. Treated more like a servant than like a daughter, she is punished for having nightmares, for being ill, for not smiling enough. The emotional abuse her parents devise -- all in the name of the Lord, of course -- is ingenious in its variety. They belittle her looks, insult her dead mother, make her sleep in a pitch-dark room to get over her claustrophobia. If she wakes screaming in terror, she is punished again for not trusting God's plan for her. When she gets attached to a toy or a pet, it is immediately taken away.Elizabeth absorbs her lessons well. She comes to hate herself and to believe that she deserves only pain and suffering. At night, she claws at her body, drawing blood with sharp fingernails.At 17 she is married off to a church deacon, and her life goes from bad to unbearable. Her husband is a sadistic bully who, besides regularly beating her, is only aroused by seeing her in pain. He also likes to have sex with...

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