A man I loved dearly, my late father-in-law, Won Ryul Song, originally came from the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. In 1946, when the Communists began their campaign to take over the Korean peninsula, he fled south and was one of the lucky ones who survived to tell stories of secret police officers seizing young men and forcing them either to fight alongside the Communists or to work in hard labor prisons. I would get chills when my father-in-law and his cousin Dr. Paik would describe the times when their relatives were taken away in the middle of the night and were never heard from or seen again. In Dr. Paik's case, he was just 8 years old when his father was abducted.
"They were bad," my father-in-law would say in reference to the Communist aggressors, "very bad."
Shortly after he passed away, his sister recounted the months he spent hiding in the countryside to evade capture and their mother's attempts to sneak food to him. She even described a time when a close friend was running from the Communist soldiers and was gunned down in front of her brother.