Che Il Nai was born to Korean-nationals in Beijing, China during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The name on her Japanese birth certificate is Yamahara Cojuno. At the age of 18, she became a US citizen and changed her name to Jin Sook Che. After she married my father, most folks called her Kim Nesbitt.
I called her Mom.
Four years ago today, my mother transitioned from this life.
She was just 70 years old.
In her short life, she traveled the world with her husband of nearly 50 years, beaming her radiant smile on all she met. She had three children and 5 grandchildren.
As a young mother, she waited patiently for her husband to return from Vietnam, while raising their two small children alone. I was born while my father was in Vietnam. He returned when I was 10 months old.
This is not a sad story about an extinguished life, it is a celebration of a little girl who changed the world.
When she was just a child, she survived the terribly violent occupation of Korea by Japan, and the beginnings of the Korean War.The little Korean girl who changed the world. Click To Tweet
The Little Girl Who Changed the World
Her immigration to America was the catalyst for the passing of a United States Public Law the has changed the circumstances of countless children around the world.
In 1951, about 6 weeks before her 11th birthday, my mother made the journey to America. She flew to Hawaii, unaccompanied, after a 3-year separation from her own mother, who had remarried an American soldier after my grandfather was killed in the Japanese occupation.
The 3-year separation was difficult, not just because her mother was in another country, but because Korea was ravaged by war. My mother would tell of stories of kicking what she thought was an empty helmet in the street and a decapitated head falling out, and playing with a little boy her age in the rice paddies then being shot at from a machine gun in a helicopter. She ran and ran and never saw the boy again.
During the separation, my grandmother, and her new husband, petitioned Congress to allow him to adopt my mother, the result was Public Law 982, signed by President Harry Truman on September 23, 1950.
As a result of this law, a foreign-national child whose parent marries a US soldier will not be left behind when they return to the USA.
My mother changed the world.