Love Beyond Measure, Memoirs of a Korean War Bride

Imagine being a seven year old orphaned girl given over to another family to be their slave. Imagine being alone in this world; unwanted and unloved by anyone. Imagine being a young woman when war breaks out in your city - Seoul. This is the true story of Ock Soon Lee (Pega Crimbchin), a Korean peasant who survived some of life’s most upspeakable suffering. The war had left her near starvation and sometimes even death. Somehow while hundreds around her were killed or died during their escape, Ock Soon Lee survived. It is the story of one woman’s courage and strength, hope and love that would carry her from life as a Korean peasant to that of an American citizen. Follow her journey and the miracles she encounters as she escapes communism. The memoirs are written by Ock Soon Lee’s daughter, Katie Schell. ( description)
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A Korean Orphans Journey

Field of Interest/Specialty: ART HISTORY
Posted On: 06/15/2014

Primarily, I am an art and AP Art History teacher, but I serve on committees for advisement and curriculum of international students and coordinate Asian programs for K-12 at Garrison Forest School. Since our resources for China and Japan are numerous, in the past three years, I have focused on finding good resources for Korea. I was pleased to see a new book about a Korean woman’s life journey.
Love Beyond Measure, Memoirs of a Korean War Bride is the touching story of Ock Soon Lee told by her daughter Katie Schell. The book relates a personal perspective of the Korean War, broadened by statistics and a soldiers’ point of view. Despite the abandonment, homelessness, hunger, lack of education, abuse, and deceit she suffers, Ock Soon survives, sustains hope, and generates love. The story begins in the 1940s with Ock Soon’s being orphaned, but puts most emphasis on her experiences during and immediately following the Korean War. Under unusual circumstances, she met Frank Crimbchin, an American soldier and eventually became a war bride.
Whenever real people speak about their personal experiences in war, its hardships, desperation, sacrifices, and tragedies have greater impact on the listener. Love Beyond Measure takes the Korean War beyond a list of dates, battles and death tolls. It presents Ock Soon’s courage and faith and Frank’s ethics and determination. These character traits are worth students’ discussing! I especially liked the author’s inclusion of Frank’s letters, reflecting what he was thinking and how hard he worked to overcome the obstacles to marrying Ock Soon and bringing her to the U.S. Frank’s love and commitment was unusual, pointing out that not all American soldiers exploited Korean women and left behind biracial children. (Many articles have been written about the latter.) Ock Soon’s illiteracy would be another good discussion topic. How would her life have been different if should had learned to read and write her native language? Imagine coming to the United States without speaking English. Besides being a moving account of Ock Soon’s resilience, the book engages readers in thinking about the atrocities of war, the limitations of illiteracy, and the perseverance of an American soldier.
Repetition of information was off-putting at first until I recalled my aunt’s oral narratives when she often recounted parts of the previous recording. Gradually, I could hear the voice of the uneducated woman who was remembering her past—the losses, the horrors, and the travails—with a humble, conversational narrative. The brevity of the sentences and simplicity of most of the vocabulary contrasted sharply with the book’s content and raised questions about the level for which I would recommend this book. Certainly, a middle school student could read the book, but the discussion of “comfort women” and descriptions of horrific acts during the war would be handled better by high school students. I consulted experienced English teachers and we agreed some knowledge of the Korean War would put this memoir in context and launch meaningful discussions—that the content of Love Beyond Measure should override the easy reading level. Consequently, my school has listed the book as a choice on the summer reading list for upcoming juniors; juniors have had Modern Civilizations, surveying world events from the Age of Exploration through the 20th century, and will take American Studies in which literature and history are investigated. All juniors write a lengthy Family History paper that makes links to a major issue or event in the U.S. and draws on tapes, letters, and interviews as well as traditional research materials. Even if the junior is not linking a family member to the Korean War, Love Beyond Measure would be a good example of interpreting oral history for this or a similar term paper.