Food Justice Jun18

Food Justice

As soon as I got into the cab that was taking me to Incheon airport in Seoul, the driver asked if I was an American. I said yes, a tad tentatively, not sure what sort of reaction I’d receive. “I love Americans,” he enthused, his face breaking into a big smile. “My father was in the [Korean] war, and he told me, ‘son, never forget what the Americans did for us.’ Even now, when I think of how many Americans died to liberate us…” His voice cracked and trailed off, and he dabbed at his eyes. A few minutes later, he told me that he was 60 years old — old enough to remember the desperate, hard scrabble years that followed the war. “I was hungry, so hungry,” he said. “Americans brought us food. I remember they brought food to my school, and the cookies, they were the best cookies I’d ever had, because I was so hungry. I can remember what it’s like to be hungry. But the young people today, they never knew that hunger. They have forgotten what America did for us.” I looked out at the skyscrapers that towered beside us, the cars whizzing by on an eight-lane freeway, the modern apartment buildings, the bridges spanning the Han River — all of it constructed in the post-war years, creating the only life that the under-30 folks had ever known.The driver, whose name was Dan Kim, tuned in a Joan Baez recording on his I-pod before continuing, telling me that he’d driven a Frenchman to the airport one time, and their conversation had turned to America. The Frenchman had said he didn’t much care for America, because it was the world’s policeman. “But the world needs a policeman,” Kim said. “Small...

Soul Food in Seoul

While wandering the grounds of the ancient Bongeunsa Buddhist temple, I discover solace and a sign that portends new beginnings.