HOW I CAME TO AMERICA
SAM K. HONG
(EXTRACTED FROM THE HASTINGS COLLEGE COLLEGIAN
OF MARCH 1911)
To Our Readers: This year we have five young men from Korea who are taking work in the Hastings College Academy. These students are almost entirely making their own way. In spite of the fact that they do not understand English very well, they are among the best students in their classes. Mr. Johnson is doing much for them and they are appreciative of his efforts. They, along with several other Koreans who work down town, are all in a Sunday school class of which Mr. Johnson is the teacher. This class made a generous pledge to the building fund of our new church and to raise part of the amount they gave "An Evening in Korea," on February 14th. The essay which follows, written entirely by Mr. Hong, was prepared for that evening’s entertainment.
The Collegian Editorial Board
The story of my coming to America is a very interesting part of my life. It is a somewhat dangerous and startling story. But there is no one who knows how I came abroad and I have never told why I left my home. It is, however, not because I was intending to conceal the whole narration but because it is impossible to express it with my poor English. In the program of this evening my name appeared in the fifth place, but considering my poor English I am second to none.
It is almost two and one-half years since I left my home. But I arrived in this country just a year and a half ago, spending a year on my journey. Until I arrived at Siberia, Russia, I took neither train nor steamer. It was not my wish to cross the great continent on foot as did the young Italian, Marco Polo, but it was impossible for me to make my journey by the flying machine and the ocean runners.
In September, 1908, just a year after our Emperor was forced to abdicate by the Japanese force, a group of twelve of us boys desired to leave the country for further study. After we said farewell to our beloved parents (who replied to us with hot tears), we started for Japan in order to come to America. But we failed at once in this plan because the Japanese officials would not give us passports and prevented us in every way from going abroad. There was a new rule that the Korean students should not be sent to Europe or to America. In spite of that, we pushed our way to Womsan, a principal sea port of the country. But soon we were once again pursued by the Japanese police and half of our number were captured. By this time the rest of us (under the disguise of country boys) escaped from the port. It was now a time of severe, cold winter in that region. Climbing over the high hills and passing by the broad wildernesses, we suffered frozen ears and numbed hands. In this way we finally arrived at the northern border of the country, where we crossed the river and took our way by rail to Europe.
It was, however, not an easy matter. In the first place we were still in the frontier of Korea, and second, we had not sufficient money to pay the car fare when we got into Siberia. Therefore, we sent a secret message to our parents asking for some money. But soon after this we were pursued again by the police and three of our companions were captured. With that capture, two others and myself were the only ones remaining; of these two, Mr. Kim, who spoke just before me, is one. In March, 1909, we attempted to cross the river, but not until we had many failures did we succeed on a night in May.
Since that time on we have been entirely free. But when we arrived at Vladivostock, Russia, we found that our purses were empty. Moreover, not knowing any of the foreign languages – neither Russian, German, French, nor English – there was not any way to make money. Finally, we met a Korean merchant in Vladivostock who was a friend of Mr. Y.M. Park. His name is Mr. S.M. Chung and he is well known to our countrymen. Mr. Chung furnished us with money and directed us to Mr. Park, even though we had never been acquainted with him. So at last we arrived in New York City. One of our companions we left in the East. Mr. Kim and I started for Denver, Colorado, having heard that Mr. Park was still staying in Denver.
Now we are comfortably located in Nebraska with Mr. Park and other native friends. I am very glad that we have settled in your neighborhood. The city of Hastings is my dear home now and Hastings College is my beloved school. For all of this I thank God and also Mr. P.L. Johnson.