In WWII, Japan controlled Korea. The Japanese police took our two story house to make it into their office building. They put my father, a Christian minister, to prison because he refused to worship their emperor. When he had a stroke in the prison, they brought him home under house-arrest. When he was freed, he went to a remote village to stay. Mother went to see him regularly. One day she came home bleeding.
The following is a section from my family story, Shattered by the Wars.
I remember one evening that Mother came home all haggard and limping. I noticed the flesh around her right shin bone, all bruised and black and blue. I asked her what had happened. She replied in tears. A young Japanese policeman had stopped her at the train station. He wanted to search her bag, but she refused. He slapped her. She was angry and yelled at him. Then the policeman threw her on the ground and kicked her repeatedly with his heavy leather boot. While passers-by watched her helplessly, she yelled at him in Korean, which he did not understand. He did not like her defiant look, and kicked her some more. She was hurt. She was in pain. Above all, she felt humiliated. Mother had never been beaten in her life, not even by her father. But this young Japanese policeman, in full public view, humiliated her. For the first time in my life, I sensed great anger in her voice as she shared her ordeal. Her eyes through tears shined with bitterness.
As I saw her bruised and discolored shin, I wanted to run out, find that policeman, and cut him into pieces. I felt great hatred spreading like a brush fire, affecting every cell of my body. What kind of a savage would do such a gross deed to an innocent and caring person like my mother? I was angry, but also I knew that I was too small and powerless. All I could do was to carry out the revenge in the safe haven of my imagination.
I also sensed in me the hatred surfacing, not only to that particular Japanese policeman who hurt her, but to all Japanese. When I saw a Japanese person on the street, wearing his kimono and walking in his gheta –wooden Japanese footwear — my usual friendly face turned to anger and disdain.
Later in my adult life I realized, this must be how people learn to hate a group of people, nation, or a race. This must be how a nation gets to hate another nation, and one race gets to hate another race. A small incident gives a spark to a dormant seed of hatred in a person. This hatred, if left unchecked, grows like weeds and spreads to other people and to an entire nation.
Mother taught me to love. She said love was like the spring sunshine. It helped people to get out of their cocoons and mingle with others as brothers and sisters. It helped them to take off the heavy jackets of winter from their shoulders, and experience the gentle warmth of the sun. It brought people to a garden of flowers to smell the fragrance of spring, and feast their eyes on the display of heavenly colors.
How do I stop hating, and love instead? I did not try to hate. I did not tell myself that I was going to hate. It happened without my trying. When I saw Mother bruised, hurt, and humiliated, I saw in me the ugly face of hate cajoling, and the dark hand of hate with the red banner of death, coaxing me to revenge. Can I shove this hate in a chamber of will power and keep it enclosed permanently? Will it not explode with a mighty fury sometime? Or should I pray to God, and tell Him that I find hate in me, and ask Him to diffuse it?