Maija Rhee Devine

Archive for July, 2013

Korean War refugee recounts how her life changed

Posted on: July 22nd, 2013 by Maija Rhee Devine

06/30/2013   Published on Harold-Review, by Huey Freeman

SPRINGFIELD — For Maija Rhee Devine, a 7-year-old girl when North Korean forces invaded her home city, the Korean War became the happiest time of her life.

Six decades later, Devine told an audience at the Korean War National Museum about her experiences as a refugee who was liberated by the war from domestic oppression resulting from her not being a boy.

Devine, a former Lincoln Land Community College teacher, delivered a riveting lecture at the museum Saturday, June 22, after the writing of her recently published novel stirred up childhood memories.

“The Voices of Heaven” is based on the story of Devine’s family, which underwent a situation that was not unusual in pre-war Korea.

When the parents’ union failed to produce a boy, a mistress was invited into the household to correct the situation. A male child was the only means of support for people in their old age and their afterlife, according to Confucian tradition.

The little girl was repeatedly told she was the cause of the family’s trouble. If she had only been a boy, they wouldn’t be in that predicament.

While Seoul residents were hearing the war drums of their northern neighbors, a quieter battle was raging in the once-peaceful household.

“The struggle was against their own instincts for monogamy,” Devine said of her parents. “They were put into a polygamous situation.”

The struggle, which incapacitated the girl’s mother for several months, was suddenly overshadowed by Seoul’s takeover by communist troops. Devine and her mother fled the city with a sea of refugees, which were strafed by bullets from Soviet-built airplanes.

“My mother covered my eyes to keep me from seeing people collapsing in a pool of blood,” Devine recalled.

After a nightmarish three-day train ride in a windowless boxcar crammed with refugees, they arrived in the southeast corner of the country, which was heavily protected by U.S. and United Nations troops.

At a time when thousands of Korean children were orphaned, Devine enjoyed a period of freedom from verbal retribution for being born a female.

“I loved the Korean War period,” Devine said. “People were worrying so much about who was killed or maimed, nobody cared about if I was a girl or boy. That was heaven.”

The war also inspired her to leave her homeland. After a U.S. soldier put candies into her pocket, she dreamed of “going to the country where they came from.”

She earned a master’s degree at St. Louis University and married Michael Devine, who later served as the Illinois state historian and is now director of Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Mo. Maija Devine is now working on a book on Korean women who served as sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II.

hfreeman@herald-review.com|(217) 421-6985

재미 여류작가 이매자 워싱턴 방문 [워싱턴 중앙일보] ‘The Voice of Heaven’ 북 사인회

Posted on: July 22nd, 2013 by Maija Rhee Devine

Reference: http://www.koreadaily.com/news/read.asp?page=3&branch=DC&source=DC&category=&art_id=1807767

재미 여류작가 이매자씨가 워싱턴을 찾아 그녀의 최신작인 ‘The Voice of Heaven’ 책 사인회를 가졌다.

한국 관련 전문가들의 모임인 코리아 클럽 공동창설자이자 브루킹스연구소 선임연구원인 오공단 박사의 사회로 열린 책 사인회에는 모두 50여명이 참석했다.
‘The Voice of Heaven’은 동족상잔의 비극인 1950년 6.25를 배경으로 한 가족의 삶을 통해 당시 상황을 풀어가는 이야기로 남녀차별로 힘든 세월을 보냈던 이 작가의 어린시절 아픔을 담은 소설이기도 하다.

이 작가는 “딸보다 아들을 선호하던 시절, 어머니가 아들을 낳지 못하자 아버지는 아들을 낳아줄 여자를 집으로 데리고 왔다. 그 후로 60 여년이 지난 지금도 남녀평등이 완전 현실화 되지 않았다”고 말한다.

그는 책 사인회에서 자신이 자라온 배경과 책에 대해서 참석자들의 질문에 답하는 시간을 갖기도 했다. ‘The Voice of Heaven’ 은 아마존 닷컴에서 구입할 수 있다.
이 작가의 ‘The Voice of Heaven’는 곧 한국어로도 출간될 예정이다. 작가가 직접 영어와 한국어 두 가지 버전으로 집필한 독특한 작품이 될 전망이다

이매자는 1966년 서강대학교 영문학과를 졸업하고 캔사스 대학에서 영문학 석사학위를 취득한 후 이 대학에서 소설과 시 분야의 강사로 일해 오면서 다수의 단편을 발표했다. 영문 시집 ‘Long Works on Short Days’를 출판한 바 있다.

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