The Author of my life highlighted the chapter of 2014 to refine my perspectives on the world and society in which I live. I rapidly gained a diverse cultural panorama traveling alone to Italy, the Bahamas, France, Belgium, and other parts of the United States. Though I missed even the basic knowledge of these cultures prior to the journey, setting foot on these unfamiliar lands motivated me to explore not only their histories but also the world less familiar to me.
As I grew up in the fenced school atmosphere before graduating from Emory University, my parents have constantly brought up my lack of awareness and warned me of the “real” America. I had always refuted their theory, but applying for hundreds of jobs coming out of college taught me what my family implied. When I receive education, I pay and become a customer; therefore, the school is inclined to show benevolence. On the contrary, when I am the one being paid, the roles are reversed. Due to my status as an international graduate in eventual need of a work visa to legally stay in the States, occupations I attempted rarely considered me in spite of my exceptional academic accomplishments to avoid coping with additional governmental paperwork and spending roughly $5,000 to employ me. Originally longing to remain at Emory University to prolong my delightful memories with the school, I applied for its virtually every available position that fit my degree in English literature and work experience.
Oxford College’s Office of Admission first notified me of an interview. Though excited beyond measure, I was scheduled to go on a cruise to the Bahamas, and the office never followed up on the interview in the two weeks I patiently waited. I had no choice but to explain to the office administrators my vacation plan so that they would not appoint me an interview while I am gone. Their vice president replied the email I read “was due to a system error,” suggesting I was not actually selected for an interview. I was mind-boggled the office never considered revealing this issue until I asked. Disappointed, I decided to move on from higher education jobs several days before Emory College’s Office of Admission offered me a legitimate interview, where I would be required to give a presentation, with one day’s notice. I embraced the opportunity and met with five employers, divided into five sessions. I felt obligated to mention my irregular status with the Optional Practical Training (OPT) Program, that I could not be unemployed for ninety days and thus must find out the result as soon as possible. Two employers promised to let me know in a couple of weeks to no avail. I hesitated emailing and pressuring them to speed up the selection process, but I was left with no other option when nobody from the office contacted me for over four weeks. My instinct accurately guessed somebody was already chosen but the employers did not care to inform the other two rejected candidates of the decision. I was disgusted, and this vagueness’ stealing my only time prior to the end of the year to visit my family and friends in Korea especially riled me up. I removed my account from the university’s human resources and moved on, because I could no longer risk letting irresponsible and oblivious administrators damage my grateful college memories that stem from influential and affectionate professors and classmates. Two sales companies ultimately hired me, and I accepted one without realizing I would have to give up church. The hiring manager must have known this would have created a problem based on my résumé and interviews but refused to disclose the peculiar working hours until my initial day of training. I quit instantly.
Ninety days of unemployment since enrolling in the OPT Program swiftly approached, and I had to mentally prepare to return to my home country of Korea. However, God had a plan to rescue me. I arbitrarily wanted to surprise-visit my closest professor, Dr. Harry Rusche, whom I had not seen in over four months, without even remembering where he lived. I faced no trouble locating his home, and he and Mrs. Sue Rusche welcomed me with open arms. I shared with them my situation, and we immediately found a temporary solution: I would volunteer at Mrs. Rusche’s nonprofit organization until I discover a stable job that pays and will sponsor me. This experience connected me to the realm of politics and numerous individuals with unfathomable accomplishments, including President Jimmy Carter and a retired chairman and chief executive officer of United Parcel Service, Oz Nelson, who connected me to the president. With the right to manage my own work schedule, I also participated in two films as an extra and made friends with celebrated actors. I was reminded nothing happens by accident.
“2014 was a year of completion for our family,” expressed my father during my recent trip back to Korea. I completed my college studies on May 12. My brother completed his wedding on December 19. My mother, after twenty-seven years, completed her work at Merrill Lynch on December 31. I say, “2015 is a year of new beginnings.” Though I desperately need an occupation that will sponsor me with an H-1B (work) visa, I find confidence in knowing God has always led me to the right path even when I doubted Him. Whether or not I find a job in the United States, I am certain the Author of my life knows where to take me next. I cannot wait to witness what my Father has in store for me for 2015.
Seeing my brother serve as a volunteer chaplain assistant during his military service, I jestingly told my father I should pursue chaplain assistant as my military occupational specialty (MOS) a month prior to mustering in the Republic of Korea Army. The position of chaplain assistant is regarded as one of the most laid-back and physically unchallenging MOS’ and hence desired and applied to by countless Korean male citizens. My father did not believe I sufficiently comprehended the Bible to stand a chance against these competitors. As I approached the replacement depot on June 29, 2010, to begin the new chapter in my life as a soldier, I only had one wish: not to be stationed in one of the front divisions facing North Korea. I remember informing several friends in the United States awaiting my return on the possibility of my serving right behind North Korea, primarily to tease them to think of me. Coincidentally, to my fate, I was drafted into Cheorwon’s 6th Infantry Division, the very front division that includes the demilitarized zone. Arguably the coldest region in South Korea, Cheorwon in winter regularly hit negative twenty-two degrees Fahrenheit (and much lower in units at the top of the mountains), worsened by fierce winds. A drunk officer from this division fell asleep outside and froze to death, which testifies to this brutal cold.
My parents, though optimistic on the phone to add hope, hid their worries about my unanticipated circumstance. I was scared and dearly hanging on to the belief God will never leave me. My division did not consist of translating jobs, but a private assistant’s misinformation made me eager to utilize my unusually exceptional English skills as a nonnative to serve my country. Nevertheless, God had a different plan for me all along. I attended church two to three times a week during boot camp, and being unprecedentedly mentally unstable, discouraged, and intimidated, I cried a river worshipping the Father every service, while most comrades either slept or marched into their own little psychological realm. One day after service, the divisional chaplain asked the trainees if any of them had studied theology, and nobody raised his hand. He then wanted to know if any had lived abroad, and out of the hundreds of initiates, only I put up my hand. He carried on with a series of questions, leading me to reveal I had been living in North America for over half of my life and was enrolled in Emory University, with which he was familiar. He vaguely stated he would use me; little did I know then he was looking for a new regimental chaplain assistant. The 19th Infantry Regiment had recently replaced its Buddhist priest with a chaplain and become a Christian unit; therefore, the regiment desperately required a chaplain assistant. The divisional chaplain office contemplated promoting a volunteer chaplain assistant from the regiment, but the chaplain’s driver, my best Korean friend now, persuaded the chaplain to bring in a new soldier instead. My evident passion for God made the chaplain downright determined to recruit me for this newfound duty until he discovered my prominent politician family background. He said, “If you were a normal kid, I would have chosen you, but you are not, so I will have to pray more to make my decision.” He fretted the public would accuse me of abusing my family status to obtain this popular MOS. This chaplain still had faith in and fought for me in front of the division’s influential officers, including the two-star divisional commander.
A major called my platoon commander during an individual-combat training session to interview me, particularly about my perspective on North Korea. I honestly replied, “I don’t think North Korea as a whole is our enemy,” blaming the country’s regime rather than innocent and wretched civilians. Some officers also surmised I had psychological issues—a criterion unacceptable to becoming a chaplain assistant—because I refused to answer questions like standard Koreans would on psychology tests. The divisional chaplain, however, defended my cultural clash, expressing, “What is so wrong about telling it like it is? Who would like to be forced to serve in the army for two years?” The unit instead sought only “Yes!” and my brutal genuineness had numerous officers question my mental health.
The divisional chaplain ultimately convinced the skeptical officers, and I was welcomed as the regimental chaplain assistant for the 19th Infantry Regiment. He explained to my parents my God-loving face was “glowing” in boot camp and thus he felt the need to recruit me. Usually, to become a chaplain assistant at a regimental level, a candidate has to be attending theology school, take a test, and then be arbitrarily picked as in the lottery, none of which fit me. Statistically, one in two thousand applicants earned my position, and I had not even applied. Placed in a combat regiment, unlike typical chaplain assistants in the country, I participated in physical training, midnight guarding and patrol duties, promotion tests, and practically all activities a combat soldier would as well as fulfilling my assignments at the divisional church. I could have found a way out of these combat roles, but I embraced hardship and even volunteered for the toughest tasks available to create everlasting memories. Working with a despicably disingenuous, imbecile, and childish fraud as my superior seven days a week for fifteen months made the army experience indescribably tougher, as I had to find motivation to refrain from pulverizing him each day. God trained me in ways I would not have tolerated as a civilian; consequently, I am exponentially more disciplined, patient, grateful, and compassionate today.
The original divisional chaplain was replaced with a new chaplain, whose family my close Korean pastor had known for years. Although this family had already been praying for me, neither of us knew about each other initially. The wife claimed she knew someone with my name, and she was referring to me. We could only label God as “humorous.” The family graciously took care of me, and we still keep in touch and pray for one another. Though I at first had nothing but negative outlooks on joining the 6th Infantry Division, I learned God always remains many steps ahead of me in directing me to the path of His Glory.
March 5, 2001, the day I was born again, I will never forget. My cousin and I were involved in a potentially fatal car accident in Vancouver, British Columbia. Not old enough to make rational decisions, he and I used to sneak and drive out of our apartment more or less every midnight to computer game and karaoke stations, as he had somehow made a copy of his mother’s car key. My cousin, too young to apply for a driver’s license, took a risk of driving illegally. With my uncle being a councilor, the license plate on the back of the car had this title engraved.
I sensed God’s warning us a few times prior to the ultimate clash with the police. First, a police car landed next to us, and the policeman looked right at us. My cousin’s instinct made him desperately drive away, but the lazy cop did not bother chasing after us. Second, my cousin drove out alone and unknowingly threw a cigarette at a police car; again, he drove away and the police did not pursue him. Third, my cousin drove out alone in the snow, and his family wanted to drive this car a few hours after his return; the snow miraculously melted without a spot within this short timeframe. I accepted God’s warnings and told him, to which he did not care.
One midnight, on our way back from the karaoke station, a policeman followed us, as he felt suspicious of a councilor car being out this late. Coincidentally, my cousin had told me for the first time to apply my seatbelt, as I never had. God made sure already I remained safe throughout the soon-to-come disaster. My cousin pulled behind the police and bragged, “This is how you avoid the cop,” with a confident smirk on his face. Neither of us realized two police cars had come after us, and the other one pulled to our right. “Hey, yo, stop right there!” the cop screamed. I, terrified, repeatedly said, “He’s telling us to stop,” but my cousin again thought driving away would be the safest option. With cops staying right behind us like magnets, we initially encountered two mammoth narrow-spaced trees, which we were barely able to go through without crashing. We then came on the verge of falling inside construction work but astonishingly pulled right out. My cousin continued to drive away without realizing one of our back tires had popped from the most recent encounter. He tried to make a right turn, but the damaged tire gave him no choice but to go straight and hit the first available obstacle: two tiny branches. These two puny branches managed to stop a car moving fifty miles per hour, for which I am forever grateful as an immense building stood behind them. As the police later revealed, they were beginning to aim their guns at my cousin’s head, implying had he kept going, they would have started shooting.
I saw my cousin visibly intimidated for the first time, yelling, “Mom, what do I do?” I then noticed the windshield in front of me had shattered in a circle, which I soon noticed to be my head. The airbag, or angel, had saved me. We saw three police cars, and the policemen instantly held us at gunpoint and put us in handcuffs. They proceeded to severely beat up my cousin while somewhat playing with me; they may have taken me as a victim of the near-death incident. One cop asked me if I liked sushi, whereas another revealed he knew my elementary-school principal. I was scared beyond measure, assuming I would be expelled from school. Around thirty minutes following, the police were prepared to imprison my cousin, and I immediately got down on my knees, begging them to take me instead; I actually was unaware I had done these before the policemen revealed the next day they cut my cousin loose for me. He awaited trial for months due to its constant postponement and took an x-ray to see if the cops had broken any of his bones; as the police were forbidden to inflict physical damage on anyone unless physically threatened themselves, they would have nullified trial had my cousin broken a bone. Nonetheless, he only had severe bruises, and his lawyer told him to move to America, as the family was already planning to anyway. Consequently, my cousin cannot reenter Canada without being arrested.
Not only did God save the lives of my cousin and me, but He also prevented this ghastly story from being on the news, which would have caused an uproar due to my eminent family status then. On March 5 of every year since the episode, I cannot help but take a moment and thank the Lord for giving me a second opportunity at life. Without His protection, I could have easily died or become a vegetable. When God puts a shield around you, nothing can ever hurt you.