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[Opinion] “Were You Happy?”

Posted July. 22, 2005 06:11,   


A blue-eyed lady is shedding a tear at her fate of losing her husband without saying good-bye. A woman who has had to endure a tragic life due to her love for a prince of a falling dynasty in an oriental country has become an 80-year-old lady. Now, the lady is asking her husband, “Were you happy after separating?” Julia Merlock, the former wife of the eldest grandson of the Emperor of the Joseon Dynasty, Lee Gu, said that asking this question to her husband was the last thing that I wish to do before dying.

People say that happiness is almost the same as unhappiness. A little difference between them is whether people can receive comfort from others or not. However, her life was a complete unhappiness without any comfort. The man she first met at the office of architecture in New York was a young man who was eight years younger than her. Since then, the man has given her light as well as darkness. She seems to have believed that the power of love could lighten the dark world around them. Without such confidence, she couldn’t have taken care of the family of her husband in a humble house located at the corner of the palace in such distant country. However, darkness engulfed the light and she just ended up a stranger.

After marrying in 1958, she moved to Korea in 1963 with her husband and resided in the Nakseonjae of Changdeok Palace. However, she found herself sterile, which was the greatest obstacle to her life in such a country as Korea that treats sterile women as sinners. The fact that she was the wife of the prince made such a thing much more difficult. The royal family that saw her in skewed eyes due to her status as foreigner pushed for a divorce, which finally led to their divorce in 1982. After this, the former wife of the eldest grandson of the Emperor of the Joseon Dynasty has struggled with loneliness and poverty without any help.

She lived in a small rented apartment residence built for foreigners and barely got by teaching English and sewing for more than 10 years. Tired of her struggles in Korea, she moved back to the home of her parents in Hawaii. She shortly visited Korea in 2000 and when she returned to Seoul to give an advice on a movie that dealt with their story five years later, she heard of the death of her husband. At that point, she asked her husband, “Darling, were you happy after separating?”

Chun Jin-woo, Editorial Writer, youngji@donga.com