Nina Movin, daughter of Rasmus Movin, recounts details about her father’s medical service during the Korean War. Rasmus Movin was born in 1912 and finished his medical school training in 1943. After supporting the resistance movement in Denmark during WWII, Rasmus spent time learning a variety of medical specialties which were useful when he arrived in Busan, Korea on March 10th, 1951. Rasmus supported soldiers medical needs as well as civilians and also helped the United Nations develop a hospital in Daegu.
Off to Korea
Nina Movin, daughter or Rasmus Movin, discusses her father's medical service during the Korean War. Rasmus Movin left by ship in January of 1951 and arrived in Busan on March 10th, 1951. Rasmus Movin left his wife and 4 children at home during this time.
Building a Hospital
Nina Movin recounts her father's medical support in Daegu. In August of 1951, when the hospital ship he was working for made its first departure, Rasmus Movin decided to stay in Daegu to support the soldiers and civilians. He worked with the United Nations to set up a hospital in a school building in Daegu.
Prior knowledge of Korea
Nina Movin remembers her father, Rasmus Movin, had no prior knowledge of Korea prior to the war. Rasmus Movin knew that his friends were in need and he had skills and training to support the war. Later in his life, Rasmus Movin visited Vietnam during the Vietnam war as an advisor to help determine hospital locations.
[Beginning of recorded material]
N: My name is Nina Movin, and it’s spelled N-I-N-A and then M-O-V-I-N, and I am the daughter of Rasumus Movin who went to, uh, Korea during the war to use his, uh, skills as a medical doctor to, to help people.
I: So please tell me about your father. What’s his name? Spell it for the audience
I: and his birthday.
N: Yes. His name is, uh, R-A-S-M-U-S which is a typical
Danish name, Rasmus. And then, of course, surname Movin, M-O-V-I-N and, uh, he was born in 1912, uh, and, uh, he was, uh, he went, he was a trained doctor I would say when he went to Korea.
I: Um. And so when did he, I mean graduate from the medical school?
N: Uh, he graduated in ’43.
N: Yeah, yeah.
I: And when did he, how did he happen to join this Jutlandia hospital ship?
N: Um, that was quite easy because during, we had a war here the, the Second World War here in, uh, in Denmark as you know.
I: Uh huh.
N: And, uh, he was, uh, in the Resistance at the time, uh, in Nystville, and in Nystville, the Resistance was, the hospital, uh, the Resistance Movement was very much involved there. So, uh, one of the chief doctors,
Ollie Trenison, Chief Doctor Trenison, uh, he had been in the Danish Resistance together with him. So when he was, uh, asked to set up a team to go to Korea, he was free to pick, and he picked, uh, Rasmus who had helped him during the Second World War fighting the Germans in Denmark.
I: So Resistance meaning the Resistance against the German occupation.
N: Yes, exactly.
I: So your father was part of it, and then he joined
I: Korean operation?
N: Yeah. He was group leader in Nystville, and Chief Surgeon Trenison was, I mean he was
more politician. But they were together from, uh, from ’43 to ‘45
I: Um hm.
N: Uh, and then after the War, he, luckily he, uh, he started, he, he, he gained different skills. Like he would be, you know, a female doctor. He would be a child do, he would be. So he rotated which meant that in, uh, ’51 when he sailed out with the Jutlandia, he had different skillsets which he really used in Korea.
I: Um hm. So tell me about, when did he leave, and how did he leave? Was it from the very beginning that he, your father was on the ship?
N: Yeah. He left, uh, when the ship left here in, uh, January ’51, uh, and they, uh, they had one year’s leave. So he sailed out there, and they came to, uh, to Korea, to Pusan, uh, 10th of March, 1951, and they were very, very busy at the ship,
uh, operating from the very beginning they arrived there.
I: Did your father often talk about his experience as a medical surgeon on the ship during the Korean War?
N: He did talk some about it. Yes he did. He, he never spoke about the Resistance Movement in Denmark, but he did talk about, uh, Korea, uh. But actually, I was, I was, uh, he was quite old when I was born, so I didn’t know a lot about it. My sisters and brothers, they, of course, lived through that period because he left four children here in Denmark together with his wife.
And that has been kind, kind of a story when we took the book to, to Korea, that people were a bit surprised.
N: So she had to, to take care of herself and the children for four years. And at the time, uh, women didn’t work. So she was, she was home with the children of course. So, uh, yeah.
I: Anything you particularly remember from your father’s?
N: Yes. Absolutely.
I: Tell me. Please tell that.
N: Um, we have, uh, a picture of, of the hospital in Taegu where he, uh, where he helped out
and, and did most of his surgery, uh, ashore. And one day I was sitting with him, uh, I was 21 years old, and I, I hadn’t heard a lot, and I asked him what, what does this picture show? And he said oh, but that’s the, the hospital in Taegu, and that, uh, that day was the day when he told me the story, uh, of how he had gone ashore, and it had been a little bit of a drama also with my mother because she had rather hoped he would get home in August
together with all the other men, uh, and nurses. But he didn’t. He stayed out there, and she didn’t know, and she heard it on the radio. So that’s the story we’d been told over and over. How could you do it? Why didn’t you tell me? Of course, he tried to tell her. He’d send a letter. But it took, uh, months for a letter to, to arrive back home, and she was very upset, it was I get very upset about it.
I: You remember that?
N: Yes because they spoke about it a lot afterwards. So, and my sister visited the ship when they were sailing.
So she remembered, and she also remembered his homecoming because she was much, much older than I am.
I: Any story about how your father felt about the Korean War and the wounded soldiers and, and miserable situations where the Korean people suffered.
N: Yeah. We have, uh, of course, all his letters and, uh, and his, uh, some of his journals, so we know a lot about that. I would say what
he felt the most was the misery in the civil population. I’m not saying he was not moved by, what he said was people at home think we only take bullets out of people. And I want to do more. So, so he was, he was aware that he had to do something for the soldiers. He liked that job. They worked very hard at it. But he also, when he went ashore, saw the children, especially the children moved him a lot, probably because he was a father
and had small children himself at home.
I: So why did the Jutlandia ship have, have to leave? When, when did it leave?
N: It actually left, uh, it, two times. So that was normal in the sense that, uh, you went down there, you did some surgery, you would end up with some patients who would have to go to Japan or other places. So it was normal that sometimes you were a hospital ship, and sometimes you, you were transportation really.
I: But when was the first departure?
N: August 1951.
I: And at that time, your father didn’t leave.
N: He didn’t leave, no. He, he stayed
I: And stayed in Taegu?
N: Yes. He, uh, he, uh, he left the ship, and then he took the train up to, uh, to Taegu.
I: And what did he do?
N: Well, he was hired by the U.N. to set up a hospital for the civil population, and they started the hospital from scratch in the sense that they moved school children out of a building in Taegu, uh,
a building which then could hold, uh, hold 600 patients, and they built a small operating theater in a, in a small, uh, very small house outside of the school. And they had to make it sterile. And so, so how, it was very difficult because it was set up from absolutely scratch. So the, the way they made it possible to operate there was that they, uh, boiled all their clothes and then put it on wet. And then they started operating because
they had to make sure that they didn’t have infections and all that. So, and then, uh, all the medicine they got from, uh, some they bought at the, in, in the street, and some they got from the, from, of course most of it they got from the U.S. Army, uh, because there was this beautiful thing that the U.S. Army thought, for example, blood more than three, uh, weeks old was too old. So they got it for, for the civil hospital.
N: So they, the got a lot of help from, uh, from the U.S..
I: How many doctors were there and nurses there?
N: In his area which was, you know, he’s, uh, the surgeon
N: yeah, Taegu, and he was a surgeon. There were also other stuff in, in Taegu
I: Um hm
N: Uh, he set up with, with himself and, uh, one medical student and two nurses. But then what they had, and the reason they could run, uh, a full hospital was that a lot of the trained Korean nurses, uh, and doctors, came and helped them.
So he, so, so they made it together, and he trained them. Part of his job was also to train, uh, the doctors and I, I have pictures of that.
I: And you showed me the film footage about 1 ½ hours. That was amazing. That was amazing.
N: Thank you. Yeah. It’s the refugees coming down from a refugee camp in Seoul, uh. It was also one of the, from the U.S. Army who had this idea
that there should be a gathering point just behind, uh, enemy lines if you will or at the right side, of course. And then they couldn’t get rid of the civil population. They were just going in and out when the fighting to place, and they were desperate to get them away from the fighting scene. So they put it, put them on trains. It was sort of cattle trains, and then they drove them three hours, at that time it’s much more, uh, three days it took, uh, down to Taegu where it was quiet, uh,
and, uh, they had rice and water during the transportation, but it was very difficult. And when they arrived at, at the railway station at Taegu, my father told me, uh, there would be like three, uh, cattle [INAUDIBLE] with, with, with patients, so potential patients, and two to three would be dead every time they, en, entered, uh, the, the trains.
N: So it was, it was really tough. And the, and he always said that he thought the Korean people were, or the patients were, they must be in, uh,
in a way, he didn’t mean that excellent condition because else they wouldn’t have survived the transportation.
I: Um hm.
N: So, uh, and they were hand-picked to go down to the hospital and get treatment. And it was every kind of treatment. It could be from, uh, things from the, you know, the war, uh, arms, wounds, whatever, bullets. But it could also be other stuff like cancer or. So he got patients with, with all kinds of disease.
I: Do you have any data about how
many patients that he treated and how many [INAUDIBLE]
N: Yes. We’ve got everything. We’ve got, uh, yeah, what he, uh, we’ve got his, his, uh, medical, uh, journals. So we know who, the name
I: Uh huh.
N: the sex, what was, you know, why were they treated and how did it go? Also from good to bad, right? Uh, he, he told the story of, and the story is in there where he would have, uh, a boy who’d been used to go to the War zone and what happened to him.
He would have a boy who was run over by, by a truck, uh, and they tried to save him, and it was impossible. Apparently there’s about, you know, vehicles um, or jeeps and children was, uh, a big issue. So there’s a lot of sad stories
I: Um hm.
N: But there are also some very, very good stories.
I: Hm. So how many total in, do you know?
N: He treated 600 patients while he was there, yeah. He operated, uh, two, two to five, three to five times a day every day. And at the end,
it was obviously a strain because they didn’t have any days off if you will.
I: When did he leave?
N: He left, uh, he, he arrived in, uh, New Year’s Eve, uh, towards 1952 if you will. So for a year, December, late December 1951 he left Taegu, went, uh, down to Pusan and then, uh, flew home.
I: How did your mom receive him?
N: Oh, she was, she was so thrilled. There’s, there’s a lot about that. And he brought, of course, gifts, uh, for her and, and for the children.
And it was a very, very happy new year.
I: How old were you at the time?
N: I was, I wasn’t even born.
N: That’s the whole idea.
I: Okay. So
N: So my four, my four, uh, my brothers and sisters, they were born. I wasn’t even born. I was born much later. So the marriage survived, eh?
I: That’s the evidence. You are the evidence.
N: The evidence, yeah.
I: And I assume that your father didn’t know anything about Korea before he left for Korea, right?
N: He, he knew
N: All he knew was that his old pals in the Resistance needed him again. And he thought it was interesting, very interesting. It was an adventure. He later went to Viet Nam, uh, also helped out, and that was more as a consultant. He helped the Americans decide, uh, where to put hospitals and stuff like that.
I: Oh. So when he came back, and when you were growing up, did he talk about
what, his experience as what Korea to him? Did he?
N: Yeah. He did. He, he spoke about the people, uh, that they were extremely friendly, uh, and that’s the impression they, they, they left on him.
I: Um hm.
N: And of course, our home was, uh, decorated with a lot of Korean things which also made us travel to Korea in 2015 and experience the same really, that he
I: You went in ’15?
I: You and your father?
N: No, he was dead by then.
I: When did he went back, when did he go back to Korea?
N: He never went back.
I: He never.
N: He never went back. He went to Viet Nam, uh, several years later during the Viet Nam War.
N: Yeah. He knew.
I: Did he knew that everything that happened in Korea, modern, growing economy
N: Oh yes. He knew. He followed, yeah. I, I, he was
I: What did he say about those
N: He was amazed. He was amazed because at, he, he wrote home that there was no, there was no, uh, no chance in hell you would make it.
But you did. He was, He thought the country was so poor at the time he left that he thought who, who’s going to save this country? That was, uh, so he was, he was surprised and amazed.
I: Was he satisfied with it?
N: Very satisfied.
I: Was he proud about his service?
N: I think he was proud, yeah. I, I think he felt he did the right thing most of all.
I: Let me ask this question. About this whole thing. Does Danish school, do they teach about Korean War?
N: Not at all. No.
I: Not much.
N: No, not much.
I: Why is it?
N: It’s very hard to understand really, and also when I tried to look into it, I was very surprised about how little, but I have to say you’d landed as well known. I mean, most people, probably not young people today but, for example when I, when I wrote the book, uh, I’d been asked out to speak a lot, and people, uh, of the age of 65 and up, they know.
N: All of them nearly.
I: So you wrote about the book about your father.
N: I took all his letters and, uh, put them into a book, and then I wrote a little bit around it so you can actually follow the story. But it’s his original words. And I also translated it into Korean. And I also know what the Koreans said when they read it because they said oh, so your mother was home alone. We thought those guys on the ship were, we thought they were like angels and whatever. But we just, we found out oh, they were normal people with normal problems.
I: Wow. So you gave me those books, and I’m going to introduce it to, to many, many, many people that I’m working with. But my suggestion is that we identify history teacher in Denmark who wants to teach about this. I heard so many things, miraculous stories and beautiful story of love of Korean children by this medical doctors and so on. I think
we need to teach about this.
I: What do you think?
N: I completely agree.
I: So we want to identify teachers. We can settle a team together, and you can teach them what’s been done, and then we can publish in Danish and then teach in the high school.
N: That’s a good idea. I, I’ve sent my book to some of the, the schools already. So, uh, that’s a great idea.
I: Do you know of any good
N: I could probably come, yes, I could probably come with some names.
I: That’s it. This is wonderful. I, I, I thank you for this, uh, unnoticed kind of, uh, invitation of interview, and you graciously accepted it. I know we can talk more. But it’s, we’ll, we’ll have more time, okay?
N: That’s good.
I: And I want you to be able to come to the United States and telling this story about it. I think they will love to hear from you.
N: I’m there from time to time. So not a problem.
I: So you, when you were growing up,
you knew about Korea.
N: We knew. Also we had all the stuff, right, all the pictures and everything.
I: So you are very exceptional Danish.
N: I don ‘t know about that.
I: We are going to edit your original film, and we going to use it for our future generation.
I: Any special message to the Korean people in Korea for the 70th anniversary of the Korean War?
N: Yeah. I
I: In your father’s perspective.
N: Yeah. I think it was amazing that you survived
the civil population as well as the whole country. I’ve studied the War. It was the most horrible, horrible war of all. And then after all that, you also became an OECD country, right, by your own force and by educating your people. You should be very proud.
I: Thank you for your father’s service, and thank you for your effort, effort to keeping his legacy. And this is how we tell our future generation.
That’s why history is important.
N: Very important.
I: Thank you so much.
N: Thank you.
I: Oh by the way,
I: Now what, what do you do?
N: Okay. I, I run a foundation in Denmark called Otto Monsted Foundation, and, uh, we try to, we have a certain sum of money, and we try to make it grow as much as possible, and all the money we earn go to students who travel abroad, and a lot of them actively to career because they’re technical students from the Danish Technical University, uh, so,
that’s what I do.
I: Excellent. Thank you very much, Nina.
N: Thank you.
[End of Recorded Material]