Here’s a little story to illustrate how curious my parents’ perspective on even the simplest things in life can be given everything they’ve lived through:

My father has been having increased trouble walking for various reasons over the past year to the point that he even has a handicap placard now because he has trouble walking even short distances, although he isn’t quite at the walker or even cane stage yet. I was talking to my mom yesterday about how he was doing and in describing the way he used to walk, instead of just describing a limp, she said (paraphrased from the Korean):

Remember the Korean president who had trouble walking? He was limping like that.

She was talking about Kim Dae-jung (김대중), president of South Korea from 1998 to 2003. I was actually lucky enough to hear him speak at Stanford (and see him limp in real life) shortly after he won the Nobel prize in 2000 for his policy of engagement with North Korea, known as the Sunshine Policy.

Now, the reason Kim had a limp was from being injured during the years of political persecution and exile along the road to his presidency and his longtime involvement in the struggle for democracy in South Korea. (Yeah, news flash: the Korean War didn’t magically make South Korea a democracy. It’s not even technically over.) According to Wikileaks data, when Kim passed away in August 2009, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul described him as “South Korea’s first left-wing president”. Specifically, Kim was a vocal dissident of the Yushin (유신) program of then president Park Chung-hee (박정희) which granted him near dictatorial powers, and after narrowly losing the presidential election to Park in 1971, Kim permanently injured his hip joint during a car accident. The accident was actually a failed assassination attempt by Park himself; later, in August 1973, Kim was eventually kidnapped by intelligence agents of the then military government of South Korea that was, of course, led by Park.

This was all around the time my parents immigrated to the U.S. and this is how my mom describes a limp. This is literally her automatic / natural frame of reference to describe something as relatively simple and seemingly innocuous as a limp.

And FYI, who was the father of the current and first female president of South Korea, Park Geun-hye (박근혜)? Former president Park Chung-hee.

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