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A Patriot and His Family Go Through Reality

Posted August. 13, 2005 03:06,   


Shin Soo-bum, the eldest son of Danjae Shin Chae-ho and husband of Lee, was born in Beijing, China, in 1921, and came to Korea the next year. Danjae had three sons and one daughter, but all except the eldest son died when they were young.

Park Ja-hye, a wife of Danjae, tried to enter her son, Su-bum, in the family’s register to send him to school in 1933 when he was 12 years old.

However, Danjae, who felt ashamed, refused to enter his name in the family register which was made under the 1912 “Joseon Civil Order” during Japanese colonial rule, leaving Su-bum on his maternal grandfather’s family register. Su-bum had to live like an out-of-wedlock child with no name on the line for the father’s name in the family register.

Lee, who married Su-bum in 1967, has struggled to make the family register with names of Danjae, her husband and her son together for about 40 years since marriage.

Lee recalls that “I visited relevant authorities and explained the family’s unique circumstances with Danjae’s genealogy and his pictures only to hear ‘it was his own decision to fight for national independence,’ and my efforts were refused.” In frustration, she filed a lawsuit and in 1986, the Seoul Family Court sanctioned Su-bum’s revision in the family register. The blank was replaced with his father’s name. It was no other than Shin Chae-ho (alias Danjae), the renowned historian who fought for the nation’s sovereignty. Yet this was not the end of the story.

With an imperfect family registry, Shin Chae-ho was recognized as Su-bum’s father but not as the head of the family in the register. This brought about a dumbfounding incident.

In 1991, when Su-bum died, a man came to Lee who claimed to be Su-bum’s son. The document he brought to Lee said Danjae was the strange man’s former head of the family.

It took 10 years for Lee to go through lawsuits and find out he was an imposter. Lee had to take two pieces of bone from Su-bum’s dead body in the grave and send the pieces in for genetic checks. Lee finally verified that the impostor was not Su-bum’s son. The fraudster tried to take 2,000 pyeong of land in Cheongwon-gun, North Chungcheong Province that Danjae left to his family.

To get her son recognized as Danjae’s grandson, Lee filed a separate lawsuit and the court accepted her request.

Lee is now undergoing stomach cancer treatments with which she was diagnosed last year. She said she’s sick because she has undergone pain and suffering as a daughter-in-law of a fighter for national independence. However, she has a lot to do. She moved Danjae’s grave in Cheongwon-gun temporarily to a nearby place last September.

“The grave was crumbling but the government turned a blind eye. Rather, officials blocked me from mending it, citing the grave is a monument of the province,” said Lee. She went on to say that “the medal the nation awarded to Danjae means nothing in that the government is doing nothing when his descendents are suffering and his grave is abandoned.”