Hiroshima survivor living in B.C. recounts bombing, 73 years later

Monday marks the 73 anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing.

It was Aug. 6, 1945 when the American bomber Enola Gay dropped a five-ton bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima.

The now Vernon local Baek Byung Soon is one of the only known survivors living in Canada today. She was eight when the bomb hit Japan.

Though Baek is Korean, she was born in Hiroshima, Japan. Her father, a businessman, had moved to Japan as a young man looking for work. He met her mother during a visit home to South Korea, they got married and the entire family moved to Japan. Soon, Baek Byung Soon was born.

Her first memories are of living in a Korean neighborhood on the outskirts of Hiroshima. At the time, Koreans were vastly descriminated against by many Japanese people. Baek said these sentiments were heightened throughout the Second World War.

Monday marks the 73rd anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing. For Baek, though the the events of that day changed the course of her life, they are now a distant memory. She does her best to recall the details.

Baek said it was a perfect day in Hiroshima; sunny with clear skies. She was walking home from school that Monday; the same half-hour walk she took every day. Because it was wartime, she was used to seeing torture and hearing planes circling above. She was about halfway home when she heard a blaring noise. She describes it like the sound of a missle being launched in the sky and then a resounding crash. Confused, dust and smoke quickly engulfed her, crouching low and covering her head, she sprinted home.

Though no one from Baek’s family was injured, about 150,000 people died as a result of the bombing in Hiroshima. She said it was bitter sweet — that, although thousands died, it meant the war was over.

Her family had not planned to return to Korea but after the bomb hit, Baek’s grandmother insisted on returning to because she wanted to die in her home country.

The Japanese refused to let Koreans return home, so Baek’s father found another solution. He organized a small boat that would smuggle the entire family out of Japan and across Korea Strait back to South Korea. Baek said the small boat, similar to a fishing boat you’d see today, was overcrowded with people like them wanting to return home. The trip took about a week.

Having only lived in Japan, she said it took some time to adjust to Korea. She recalls not having enough to eat.

Related: Day after plane crash escape in Mexico, survivors resume travel

Related: Living through a terrorist attack

It was a mere five years later when Baek found herself in the thick of another war: the Korean War. She, not even 15 yet, had already experienced — and eventually survived — two wars before she turned 18.

Baek said she witnessed much more torture during WWII in Japan but saw more bombing and gunfire throughout the Korean war.

Her family was relocated several times throughout the Korean War, adjusting as the North advanced into the South. She admits she was lucky.

Though she witnessed her neighbours being shot and killed, her family remained untouched by the North Korean army because her parents shared food — including with opposing soldiers. She said that her parent’s generosity is the only reason she is still alive to tell her story today.

After the war, her family continued in their tradition of aiding those in need. They helped many civilians seeking refuge after being displaced as a result of the war. They provided those in need with a roof, fed them and, ultimately, kept them alive.

She notes that there was even less food available at the end of the Korean War. Americans arrived, providing support and food to the South Koreans. Although she lived in Hiroshima and experienced the effects of the American’s bombing first-hand, she saw them as heroes. They had effectively ended the war in Japan and provided the much needed aid in the aftermath of the Korean war.

Eventually, having survived both wars, Baek was married and had four children: one son and three daughters. Though her son still lives in South Korea, all three daughters moved to B.C. After her husband died, she decided to join them and officially moved to Canada in 1999.

Today, Baek, 81, lives in Vernon with her three daughters. Her family describes her as resilient. A survivor. Having lived through two wars during her youth, she admits she knows more than she would like to remember but said she doesn’t think it affects her much today.

The anniversary falls on a Monday this year. When asked about how she feels on the anniversary each year, she shrugs. She said it’s just another day. She doesn’t think about it much anymore.

Related: Dozens still missing as death toll hits 176 in Japan floods

Related: Spelling Survivors

Related: Toronto van attack survivor grapples with legacy of incident months later

Note: Baek Byung Soon is Korean and doesn’t speak english. Her daughter interpreted her story for the Morning Star.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@vernonmorningstar.com
.



Follow me on Twitter @BrieChar
Email me brieanna.charlebois@vernonmorningstar.com
Like us on

 

Just Posted

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

Peppered Pig slays the Dragon

The competition on Wednesday night at Prince Charles Theatre featured five local business owners vying for a $1,000 gift certificate from Creston Save-On-Foods.

A photography hobby becomes a business

Lit Photo/Video is on a mission to capture the most striking images and video to showcase the beauty of everything in the Kootenays.

The politics of fear

In a chat with my boss earlier this week I told him that for the first time in my career I am actually wondering about my personal safety.

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Ocean ‘blob’ returns to B.C.’s North Coast

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Pot sales down by nearly 70% on Day 2 of legalization in B.C.

Several products on BC Cannabis Store are still sold out

B.C. jury finds man guilty of Japanese exchange student’s murder

Natsumi Kogawa was found at empty heritage mansion shortly after she was reported missing in 2016

Most Read