Dr. Nam Y. Park

My grandfather recorded this little anecdote in a preface to his memoir.

On Oct. 24, 1991, Dr. Nam Y. Park paid us a good visit in Montreat. He is an elder of the First Presbyterian Church of Houston, Texas, and currently a member of the board of Montreat-Anderson College. I had previously met him when speaking at his church in Houston.

We were fascinated with the story Dr. Park had of his early life. He was born in far north-eastern Korea but as a boy his family came to Mokpo. His father had made quite a fortune in rice, and operated a large business in Mokpo. “Nam” remembers that the mission compound was a beautiful place with trees and flowers, and he liked to climb over the fence and go there to paint pictures. With a laugh he said he remembered my father running him off several times. (I tried to explain that this was because the missionaries had trouble keeping hordes of such invaders from taking over the property.)

This was during the time of the Japanese occupation and he says that the Japanese population of Mokpo was about 50%. The Japanese established some kind of special high school there for their own brightest students, and decided to accept a few select Koreans as well and “Nam” was one chosen… both because he was a bright boy and because his father was a prosperous business man. No doubt their idea was to train a few Koreans to be used in high positions in their government.

The missionaries were evacuated from Korea in the fall of 1940. When “Nam” later was in this special high school, the principal (a Japanese, of course) was living in my parent’s house. He brought “Nam” and other students there to work in the vegetable gardens in the yards around the house about once a week. On several occasions, however, “Nam” was among those ordered to clean the house. Once while doing so, he happened to lean his hand against a wall and it suddenly gave in and a pile of books came tumbling out. He was astonished and hastily picked up a book entitled “Modern Education in Korea” which he slipped inside his clothing and took home.

I had never heard that my parents tried to hide anything in this way, and it could have been done by servants after they evacuated. Anyhow, “Nam” vowed to return this book to the Hopper family and brought it to America (where he is now a micro-paleontologist with an oil firm) . However, it seems to have been mislaid and he has not yet brought it to me.