Photographs from 1950
When I was just a boy, before the first bullets flew at Osan
and children waded through rubble to school, my father
always told me stories of how recruits metamorphosed
into iron soldiers. How they bore chests embellished by
medals and wore boots that gleamed under the moon. He
told me he knew a private who was just seventeen, a young
man with wide shoulders and a fire in his eyes. His parents
shipped him off to Osan to honor the family name. After four
weeks, the boy returned with sunken cheeks and cracked lips,
fingers corroded by ice. His parents showered him with Poppies
and spooned him ginseng until he’s bereft of small joys.
Months later, father and the boy would fight in the Battle of Seoul
where the boy’s corpse would return in a coffin of threads.
Sewn shut as the wood peeled away under December frost.
For a year, the village mourned with shards of ginseng.
The other parents drank themselves dry,
before sending in their sons.
Eric Pak is a 17-year-old Korean-American living in Thailand. He has lived in diverse countries around the world and aims to share his experiences through his writing. His works have previously been published in K’in Literary Journal, The Paper Crane Journal and The Cathartic Literary Magazine. In his free time, he likes running and eating enchiladas.