Grandmother Ok – Historical Mother of Faith – Part 2
Ok Sae-hyun (whom we sometimes refer to as Grandmother Oak or Grandmother Ok) joined Father in 1946 in Pyongyang, during the first year or so of his public mission and 8 years before the founding of HSA-UWC. Without any special mission title, Mrs. Ok devoted herself to supporting Father during his early course filled with hardship. Mrs. Ok was born in Pyongyang. She had previously been a member of one of the established Christian churches there, where she served as a deaconess, while her husband served as an elder of the church. They were the parents of two sons and four daughters.
In 1977, at almost 80 years of age, she gave an interview in Korea about her earliest years with True Father. The interviewer noted that despite her advanced years, and despite the wrinkles on her face gained from overcoming adversity for the will of God, Mrs. Ok looked young.
This content has been translated from the original Korean.
Part 2 (final) Click to read Part 1
After a while I again visited Hungnam prison, but Father was nowhere to be found. With a feeling of unease, I asked a warden where Father was. He said Father was at Bongung, located 8 kilometers away from Hungnam Prison. I arrived at Bongung, took a room at the inn near the prison, and began searching the prison for Father.
Suddenly I heard the noise. I looked to the side, and there was Father pulling a rail-car. I spoke with him from a distance and gave him some special foods I had prepared, by passing it to him via another prisoner.
Next morning l saw that Father was cleaning up the prison yard. l came closer and asked him, “Did you get the food?” he said, ” Yes!” After that, he went to the back yard of the prison and was cleaning it. I told a warden that, “I have come from Pyongyang to be with my nephew. Could he please give time for me to converse with him!” He gave permission, so we could meet and converse with each other for a good while.
Father said, “After one month, I’ll go back to Hungnam.” After our parting from each other, I waited there for a long while to meet him again. But I could not find him again, so I came back to Pyongyang with a despondent feeling.
Q: Is there more you can say about Father’s suffering in the Hungnam labor camp?
A: One day, l visited the labor camp together with Mr. Kim Won-pil. We found Father carrying straw bags of fertilizer, wearing a black towel and worn-out cap on his head, looking back to us and going into the prison. Could you imagine how heartbroken we felt at that time? Whenever we visited the prison, we prepared new clothes, but whenever we met him, we always found him wearing the old worn-out clothes. After a while, we knew the reason. Father was giving the new ones to prisoners who would soon be released.
There were times when we couldn’t visit the prison. Because of the Korean War, we could only pray in anxiety, hoping to hear even a word from Father, to know that he was still okay. God gave us a revelation in which He said, “Don’t worry! He is well now.”
Q: I’ve heard that when, during the Korean War, the South Korean Army advanced into the North, the gates of the prison were opened. Can you tell me about this in more detail?
A: On October 14, I 950, because of the United Nations’ soldiers advancing on Hungnam, Father could be released. Though there had been severe bombing at the fertilizer plant where they worked, prisoners had to continue working very hard. At the labor camp, they wanted to kill all the political prisoners rather than let them escape. Fortunately, there was no bombing at the actual prison facilities where Father stayed. But because they were killing prisoners by shooting some of them every day, all prisoners’ nerves were on end.
When Father arrived on foot in Pyongyang after walking for ten days, he was wearing the socks I had knitted for him. For one month after that, he remained at my home.
Q: Father’s life in North Korea was continuous suffering, wasn’t it? I know that after all that, Father came down to South Korea. Could you tell something about his life in South Korea during those times?
A: I came to South Korea with my family, and Father came down to South Korea with Mr. Pak Jong-hwa, who had been the head of the prisoners at Hungnam Prison. Mr. Pak had broken his leg because of a beating and severe torture at the hands of South Korean soldiers. He had been mistaken for a communist spy.
Father pushed him on a bicycle with Mr. Kim Won-pil. It was a dramatic adventure.
Mr. Pak remained at Gyeongju (now one of the nice sightseeing places in the Southeast part of South Korea), and Father and Mr. Kim Won-pil continued on to Pusan. Father found my home through Reverend Han Sang-do, who was ministering at Choryang Church, and Father sent Mr. Kim Won-pil to find me.
First of all, I asked Mr. Kim, “What kind of clothes does Father have on?” I found Father still had the old ones on that he had been wearing in North Korea. So I bought some material to make Father and Mr. Kim new clothes and gave money to Mr. Kim so that he could rent a house. A few days later, I prepared the clothes and visited Father ‘s house with these.
In Pusan in 1951, Father stayed on the hillside during the day and worked at the pier at night. Mr. Kim Won-pil worked first at a restaurant, but later he began to work with a US Army unit. Father build a mud house for his stay during the cold winter and cooked his meals by himself even in very cold weather. During these times, many core members, including Mr. Eu Hyo-won (first president of Unification Church in Korea) joined.
On May I, 1954 Father nailed up the signboard with the words HOLY SPIRIT ASSOCIATION FOR THE UNIFICATION OF WORLD CHRISTIANITY on the church in Seoul. Here, many professors and students of Ewha Women’s University began to join. Because there were many members, but not much space, we moved to another big house located at Heungin Dong. And we moved again to Jangchung Dong on April 27, 1955. At this point, 5 professors and 14 students were expelled from Ewha Women’s University.
Three months later, on July 4, eventually Father and some leaders were imprisoned in Seodaemun Prison. Our daily work was to visit the prison. At the prison they told us that Father had received the greatest number of visitors among all prisoners since the prison had opened.
On October 4, Father was released first; and soon other leaders were also released except Mr. Kim Won-pil who was released on Christmas Eve of that year. Soon after Father was released, we moved again to the new headquarters church property at Cheongpa Dong (which we still keep) and in which True Parents’ Holy Wedding, early Blessing Ceremonies, and many other important events and activities have been held.
Q: Please would you share a word of advice for our members, based on your feelings about attending Father.
A: We face many kinds of challenges, both internally and externally. Father’s life has been a life of endurance. Through surviving many kinds of opposition and the mockery of the world, he could receive his crown.
Today’s difficulties will become the strong foundation for our victory in the future. We should comfort True Parents and do our best for our Heavenly mission. Thank you!
Mrs. Ok lived to the age of 100, ascending to the spirit world in the early 2000s. This interview was translated from the Korean monthly magazine, Tongil Segye.