It the fall of 1969 I was assigned to “A” Company 7th Aviation Battalion, 7th Infantry Division at Camp Casey, Korea as a brand new WO1 helicopter pilot. We were located in the town of Tongduchon (now known as Donducheon). At the time it was considered a remote location 25 miles north of Seoul and 14 miles south of the DMZ. Shortly after my arrival I was introduced to a remarkable man who ran an orphanage, Kwak Sun Yong. Mr. Kwak spent his life running orphanages and helping children. He and his family’s dedication to the children in his care motivated me and other GI to spend our spare time helping in what ever ways we could.
After a leaving Korea I lost track of the orphanage and the Kwak family as life moved me in other directions. Yet I never forgot my experience with the children and the Kwak family and would occasionally search the internet for any information. Recently, I read a post on a military web site of an orphan from the Yang Ju Child Care Center who had been look for information regarding her past.
The thought came to me to develop a web site where memories and pictures could be shared with other orphans of the Yang Ju Child Care Center looking for their past or wanting to connect with former friends, staff or GIs associated with the orphanage.
My memory of the orphanage was of a clean, well maintained facility where the children were well cared for, nurtured and loved. The children were always happy and playful and were always excited to have visitors. Especially when we brought cookies and candy. We would spend hours playing badminton, dodge ball, catch, ring around the rosie or just pushing kids on the swings. On nice days the staff would take the kids on hikes in the hills above the orphanage and through the traditional grave sites that dotted the terrain.
My memories of Mr. Kwak, his family and orphanage staff was of a loving dedicated team that put the needs of the children above their own. They were always loving, gentile and kind to the children. Additionally they were always grateful for any help or support given and their organizational structure was always open and honest.
A number of years ago I heard that Mr. Kwak had passed away but I was unable to contact his family to express my sympathy. In part this web site is a tribute to him and his dedication to children everywhere.
While researching the history of Kwak Sun Yong and the Yang Ju Child Care Center I came across a Korean War Veterans website and an inspiring story of courage and human kindness in the face of combat. After finally contacting the family I was able to confirm that the Kwak Sun Yong is the same man in both stories. I was touched by the courage and generosity of the sailors on the U.S.S. Saint Paul to provide aid while they were shelling the enemy and the willingness of Kwak Sun Youg and his wife to care for the orphans at the risk of death to themselves and their young family. The link to “The Orphans of Fushi-to Island and the U.S.S. Saint Paul”, is a must read story for those who have any tie to the Yang Ju Child Care Center.
Link to “The Orphans of Fushi-to Island and the U.S.S. Saint Paul”
Link to the Korean War Veterans, Chapter 169 and their Korean war stories
You can also see the story “45 Children in Korea Call Him “Pop”, at http://www.uss-saint-paul-ca73.com/Memories.htm#_Arthur_Rodriguez
W. Larne Gabriel