Yang Nam-ho’s brass spoon

I am now aged 76,
and now may be the time to let it go.

Steam rises, just like a sigh, just like the incense smoke.
The spoon next to it resembles the lonely man who died alone.
His wife served meals on the table for the missing soul.
The bowl was heaped three times a day with newly cooked rice
for 30 years until she heard her husband had died in jail.

At the age of 27, Moon Im-saeng (Yang’s mother) was separated from her husband. This brass spoon was the only one Moon ever used. It was even the spoon she used for her last meal.

All of her family used these pots and dishes when hiding on Mt. Hallasan to avoid being killed during suppression operations by the counterinsurgency forces.

Yang Nam-ho
“Since childhood, I have lived with the memory of 4·3. When I was six, some state forces burned the village of Ora. And my family, including my grandparents, my first uncle, my second uncle, my parents and I went up Mt. Hallasan to hide. Even after my relatives left the mountain, I stayed there with my mother a little longer. We used to wear gotgam bosi, a hat with earmuffs. Surviving the winter only with that hat, we cooked meals with these utensils. For four to five months, my mother repeatedly hiked up and down the mountain, carrying food we had hidden in the dark. After returning to the village, we still used these pots until I graduated from middle school.


My mother loved my father very much. Until she passed away, she had her meals only with this brass spoon. Every day, she washed it carefully with rice straw and ashes. She kept it in the closet where she prepared the memorial table with food for my missing father for nearly 30 years until she finally heard that he had died in Daejeon prison. However, she had never let us prepare her birthday feast until she died in 2009. She used to say, ‘I was unable to prepare birthday meals for your grandparents. I don’t deserve to have mine prepared for me,’ or ‘It dates back to a long time ago. Even if you hear it now, would it bring back any of the dead victims?’


Looking at relics like this spoon, I cannot but feel sorry for my mother. I am now aged 76, and now may be the time to let it go.”