One day over 20 years ago, I received a letter.  It was from Pak Yong Chan, identified as a military PO Box. Feeling rather strange I read it. Pak wrote that he was one of my son Myong Jun’s comrades-in-arms, that Myong Jun had been an everybody’s favourite soldier, that he (Yong Chan) had heard from Myong Jun about me and my husband and kept respect for us for long, and that he would take care of us on behalf of Myong Jun, my only son who had died at a post of national defence. I felt thankful for his letter.

Later one day in late 1996 Yong Chan came to my place, instead of his home town where he had his family and relatives. Now he became our son. He began to work at a library of the State Academy of Sciences, which meant the beginning of his social life. He always suffered the lack of time for work, and yet he devoted his sincere heart to us. From of old it was said water and love only flow down, but the reality since he joined us was that my husband and I were only under his devoted care.

A dozen years ago I almost gave up my life after I was diagnosed as having an incurable disease. My husband had already died and I did not want to be a burden to any people anymore. But Yong Chan remained firm and steady. He took me to a number of hospitals carrying me on his back and all the while asking me if I minded his sweating back. One day he heard that the gall bladder of some bird was a special cure of my disease. He got it from somewhere and sat up until dawn when the gall bladder was said to have the greatest effect. Then he took out the gall bladder for me. And when I felt an appetite, he readily went a long way to get something for a special food for me.

Pak Yong Chan and his family.

Pak Yong Chan and his family.

Such a sincere heart of his became the elixir of my life. In the days of his devoted care for me a good many people around, including his colleagues, came to know about us. A girl, moved by his laudable practice, visited me at my house and told that she would also be my “daughter”. Soon she married Yong Chan. The local officials were first to congratulate them on their marriage and brought me tonics and necessaries of life on holidays. And when winter was near at hand, young workers of the library brought a great heap of firewood and did everything to help me live in comfort. I was also very thankful to my neighbours for their warm care, who never failed to share special dishes with me. And whenever Yong Chan visited his parents and brothers in his hometown, they were anxious to give me whatever assistance they could, telling him to take good care of me on behalf of them. Now Yong Chan’s mother often dials me to inquire after my health, calling me Yong Chan’s mother kindly. Whenever he sees Yong Chan, a teacher of his alma mater, proud of his old student, advises him to go his way steadfastly without giving up halfway. Yong Chan’s old secondary schoolmates and comrades-in-arms are also reliable support for him.

My son Myong Jun is still alive in my mind, the image of him saying goodbye to me when he left for his military post. Talking to him in mind I say, “Myong Jun, I can see you in the image of my dear Yong Chan and other kind-hearted people. I live in a grand family. All the people in this country are no less than blood relations.”

Kang Yong Nyo

Neighbourhood Unit No.17, Kwahak-dong No.1,

Unjong District, Pyongyang