Korean War Legacy Project

Sangmoon Olsson


Sangmoon Olsson was born in Daejeon, South Korea under Japanese Imperial rule on November 30, 1933. Her experiences of the oppression that she endured as a child still impact her today. During the Korean War she and her brother had to go into hiding for eight months, because the Communists wanted to capture her brother. Sangmoon Olsson completed nursing school, a profession her brother chose for her and graduated in 1954. She went to work at the Swedish Military Hospital, where she met her future husband. Sangmoon Olsson has revisited Korea many times and is amazed by the rebuilding of her birth country.

Video Clips

Japanese Imperial Control

Snagmoon Olsson describes life as a child under Japanese Imperial control. The Japanese restricted children in school from speaking Korean. Students lost a coupon when speaking Korean. Other punishments and control measures included the Japanese changing the names of the people of Korea to Japanese names.

Tags: Daejeon,Civilians,Living conditions,South Koreans

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Life During the War

Sangmoon Olsson describes her life during the Korean War. Her brother had a high position under the Japanese Imperial control and when the communists took over, they wanted to capture her brother. Sangmoon had to go into hiding for a total of eight months, interrupting her nursing studies. When the Allies eventually pushed back the Communists, Sangmoon Olsson was able to complete her nursing studies.

Tags: Daejeon,Civilians,Communists,Fear,Front lines,Living conditions,North Koreans,Pride,South Koreans,Women

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Swedish Red Cross

Sangmoon Olsson describes the services the Swedish Red Cross offered. The Swedish Red Cross in 1954 treated mostly civilians, but a few veterans because the war had ended in 1953. The Swedish Red Cross offered Surgery, Operation, and Plastic Surgery. Sangmoon Olsson describes that her training prepared her well to help the civilians of Korea in the various medical services.

Tags: Busan,Civilians,Poverty,Pride,South Koreans

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Revisiting Korea and Socialism

Sangmoon Olsson describes her experience when re-visiting Korea after many years. She did not want to put out her family and make them come to her. She remembered the roads of "old Korea." However, the family met her and reminded her the country had changed and was not the "old country." She was filled with pride and amazed at the rebuilding of South Korea. Sangmoon Olsson also describes that Sweden, being more left on the political spectrum. Being left probably impacted Sweden's positive relations with North Korea.

Tags: Busan,Seoul,Civilians,Impressions of Korea,Modern Korea,Pride,South Koreans

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Video Transcript


[Beginning of recorded material]


S:         My name is Sangmoon Olsson in Sweden.

I:          Um hm.

S:         But in, uh, in Korean, my family name was U

I:          U.

S:         Yes.

I:          And your first name’s still Songmoon.

S:         Yes.

I:          Um.

S:         Um Hm.

I:          And could you spell your last name?

S:         O-L-S-S-O-N.

I:          O-N?

S:         Um hm.

I:          Okay.


And your first name is S-

S:         A-N-G-

I:          G

S:         M-O-O-N.

I:          So O-O-N.

S:         Um hm.

I:          What is your birthday?

S:         Thirteenth of November

I:          Um hm.

S:         Nineteen thirty-three.

I:          Thirty-three

S:         Yes.


I:          You are very still young.

S:         Thank you.

I:          And where were you born?  You were born in Korea, right?
S:         Yes.

I:          Where?

S:         I born in [INAUDIBLE].  But, uh, I grown up in Taejon

I:          Teajeon.

S:         Um hm. And the oldest school also.

I:          Um hm.  And when you were growing up, tell me a little bit about your family background, your father and mother and your sisters and brother if you have any at the time.


At the time.

S:         Uh, Unfortunately, I don’t know so much  my father because he, he died before I born.

I:          Um.  I’m sorry to hear that.

S:         But, uh, I grown up, uh, with my mother and, uh, two brothers and three sisters.

I:          Oh.

S:         Yes.

I:          So, including you?  So four sisters and two brothers.

S:         Yeah.


I:          So big family.

S:         Yes it was.  But now only me.  Yes.

I:          And when you were growing up, it was on the Japanese Colonial

S:         Oh yes.

I:          control, right?
S:         Um hm, um hm.

I:          Tell me more about it.  How was it?

S:         Well, it was, I was, uh, if I don’t forget, uh.  Um, [Premier School Force Class]


We were free from Japan.  It was 1945

I:          Five

S:         Yes.  And at that time, we could speak Korean in school, but Japanese, they give us special Korean children.  We get 10 coupons, paper, you know.  And then the Japanese children,


they see us, and they play with the Korean children then.  Then if they heard we speak in Korean, then we have some rules with this coupon.

I:          Oh.

S:         So we salute first, they got the punishment.

I:          What kind of punishment?

S:         Well, it’s, it’s, a ban one week, uh, where they’re stopping coming to school.


Stay home, like that.  And then, well, well, we have the, the, we never can free like children, you know, and we have police and our teachers say.  I remember that, uh, um, between summer or autumn, you know, it’s tea is popular, popular tea

I:          Um hm.

S:         they get  like, uh,


when flower is a, uh, when it’s autumn time, then it gets cut, cut them because we have to climb up a tree, take all the cottons because they’re put into the soil yesterday to  make, uh, uh, they, uh, [INAUDIBLE]

I:          You did, yes

S:         So we were  held down like this

I:          Um

S:         this sins.  But when we were, uh,


fourth class, uh, a [INAUDIBLE] we were being put on.

I:          Um.  Were you given Japanese name?

S:         Yes.

I:          What was your Japanese name?

S:         [Yanisowa Soboon]

I:          Could you repeat?

S:         [Yanisowa Soboon]

I:          [Soboon]

S:         Yes.

I:          So how did you feel like when you have to use your Japanese name rather than your own name there?


S:         Well, we were children.  So we didn’t think so much.  We were born to what teacher says.  Your name is [Yanisowa Soboon] so we accepted just like this.

I:          Just like that.  Um.

S:         But the way us all played is to losing the coupons

I:          Um hm.

S:         because we’ll get punishment.

I:          That’s a very cunning system, to punish people, right?

S:         Um hm.

I:          Not to use Korean, their own language.

S:         No.

I:          Not to use their own name.  Um.


S:         So we had to, um, yes.

I:          So when Korea was liberated from Japanese Colonial control in 1945, how was it?

S:         It’s a long history.  My brother was in charge over construction railroad, and he was, uh, had been.  But he was a very kind to all the workers.


At that time, uh, they forced, they forced them come out the country work by being [INAUDIBLE]  Oh they, they, they don’t like [INAUDIBLE] cause they don’t like coming to work and they want them to work in the day with hammers and all that [INAUDIBLE]  When my brother, he was a very kind to them, and when in the school, New Year celebrations


so that my brother send them to their own country.  If some other company, they have done like these men, those people, they don’t come back.  They were hiding, you know.  But my, my brother’s company was, they come back because my brother was very kind to them or honest everything.  And for that,


we didn’t know that there was, we were free of Japan.  Oh sorry.  That was in, uh, 1945, the 15th of August.  But after we heard that, uh, people was, uh, want to punish the Japanese people

I:          Right.

S:         uh, they make kinds of [INAUDIBLE] and, uh, they shouting and, you know.  But they,


then they passed our house and they said quiet.  Let family [INAUDIBLE] sleep.  So we didn’t know that.

I:          I see.

S:         But that was [HIEDELBERG] because in Korean people, some Korean people, they behave like the Japanese.

I:          Um hm.
S:         So very hard to condemn people then


they get back home, or Korean people had to get hard time with Korean people.

I:          Right.

S:         They, this was

I:          Terrible.

S:         Um, terrible.

I:          Um.

S:         They almost [INAUDIBLE] like that, yeah.

I:          So it’s a viscous cycle

S:         Um hm.

I:          Japanese did Colonial Control did a lot of atrocious things.  And then Korean people got angry, and when Japan fled from Korean Peninsula,


these Korean people did come to another Korean people.

S:         Yeah.

I:          So it’s a bad things after another.  And this is very unfortunate history in Korea,

S:         Yeah, yeah, yes it was very bad.

I:          So what were you doing when the Korean War broke out, 1950?  What, where were you and what were you doing, and were you in the school?

S:         Uh, yes.  I was a scholar in, this was in my first class.


And then my brother was [INAUDIBLE] into this railroad.  And then we walked back to [Tadjum]

I:          Um hm.

S:         And then I go to nursing school there, [INAUDIBLE]

I:          So what school you were in?

S:         First of all, Primary school of course and then middle school.

I:          What’s the name of the school that you graduate?

S:         uh, Yomin Middle School.

I:          Middle school.


S:         Uh, [Tadum. Yo Jung]

I:          Um, [Tadum Yo Jung]  That’s a middle school in Taejon.

S:         Um hm.

I:          And then, so you were, um, 17 when the Korean War broke out.  So you were in the school again?

S:         I don’t know if I was so old now.  I was


I:          Korean War broke out in 1950.

S:         Yeah, yeah.  [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Yeah, yeah, yeah.  It’s ok.

S:         I’m thinking maybe Japanese.

I:          No, no, no.

S:         Yeah.  Then I was, uh, in middle school [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um.
S:         And then after while I went to nursing school.

I:          Nursing school?

S:         Uh huh.

I:          Okay.  what is the name of the nursing school?

S:         Taejoong [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Ah.

S:         And then, uh, it was sent in, in, not now it was sent, no.

I:          Okay,.
S:         They were


a school hospital then.

I:          Why did you go to nursing school?

S:         That’s a long history.  Oh yes.  My mother was getting old, and my brother, since my father is not living, my brother’s more less

I:          Like a father.

S:         runs my family.  And my brother had the family, it’s four children.


And then when I was graduated in middle school, I want to  go to nursing school ask things.  So if I go to University, I can’t get, I can’t work and earn money and live out of a  So yeah.  I must have get money from my brother.  Then I couldn’t get to say to my brother, then I must go through my mother.


So I give him a hard time for my mother.  My mother was almost over 60 years.

I:          Um hm.

S:         Then myself decided ok, I take a nurse. Then I get my professional.  So that’s why I entered to the nurse

I:          I see.

S:         Um hm.

I:          And how long was it, and what did you learn?

S:         In the nurse school, well, we, we


learned all the surgery or medicine or, or, or

I:          Ah.

S:         all kind of disease, sickness disease.

I:          Um hm.

S:         Of course.

I:          And how long was it?

S:         Three years.

I:          Three years.

S:         Yes, um hm.

I:          And so when did you enter that, uh, Taejon [INAUDIBLE]?  When was it?

S:         Um hm.

I:          When?  Nineteen

S:         Uh, wait now.


Nineteen fifty, I think 1950 I think.

I:          Fifty?

S:         Yeah, I think so.

I:          Um.
S:         Because 1954 I graduated nursing school.

I:          Wow.

S:         Um.

I:          So then you were still in the nursing school, nurse school, in, during the War.

S:         That was after.

I:          That was after the War?

S:         Um hm.  Because, uh, uh,


fifty, when I was, uh, middle school, that was in War.
I:          Um.

S:         And then, then when I was nursing school, that’s, I just was, uh, we had 38, uh, what do you, [LANGUAGE]


I was, uh, I was nurse school, it was not, uh, War.

I:          Um.
S:         Middle school, yes.

I:          Yeah.

S:         Uh huh.  And nothing was, uh,

I:          after the War.

S:         Um hm.

I:          I see.

S:         Yeah.
I:          So during the War,

S:         Um hm

I:          where were you?

S:         I hided in country.

I:          Country where?


Uh, Tunheau, outside of Tunheau.

I:          Outside of the Tunheau.

S:         Um hm.

I:          Ah.

S:         because, uh, uh, I have to help my brother

I:          Um.

S:         because uh, Communists, uh, they want to get my brother, although my [INAUDIBLE] he hasn’t done any bad thing to my when he was a little bit, uh, high position in [Nuremburg]  So all the Korean Communists, they wanted


to get all those people here alive there.

I:          So they knew about your brother.

S:         Yes.  So my brother was hided.

I:          Oh.
S:         So I was helper putting the [INAUDIBLE] like this.

I:          How, I mean were there enough food or how was it  being under the North Korean control?  It wasn’t that long, right?

S:         No, it was not.  As I experienced about six months or like that.

I:          Six month.

S:         Yeah.


Six, eight months.  Then during that War, we, we were free from school.  We couldn’t have it because Communists, uh,

I:          Sure, yeah.

S:         all the refugees must run into Pusan, you know.  We, we don’t have any place to go than, more than Pusan.


So we closed the school, some middle school.  I went first, first class and then more less second class.  Second class was, uh, War.

I:          Interrupted by the War, yes.

S:         More years.

I:          Um hm.

S:         So the class we educate, uh, graduated.  So it was [INAUDIBLE]


of course, that was just after War  is not peace.  [INAUDIBLE].

I:          Did you learn that there was a, other country came to help Korean people during the War and Swedish Red Cross came in Pusan.  Did you know that?  When you were in nursing school?

S:         Actually, I, we didn’t know.


But we had one Danish nurse

I:          Um hm.

S:         come to our school teach us about what, what do you call, [LANGUAGE]  how to take care of patients.  So since she came


I:          Um.

S:         then we knew that we had to close the hospital in Pusan.

I:          Ah.

S:         Um.

I:          So Swedish  nurse came to your school, Taejon

S:         No, Danish one, Danish.
I:          Danish.

S:         Um hm.

I:          Okay.  From Denmark.

S:         Yeah.

I:          And she came to your school and

S:         Teacher.

I:          Teacher, yes.

S:         One, uh, so, and then we [INAUDIBLE], then we sought the secular job.


But, uh, I don’t, I’m very premature.  I, I didn’t care if I could go or not.  But she came ask we have a [INAUDIBLE] hospital in Pusan if you want, I can recommend a, you.  So I said it’s okay.  So we were, uh, four friends from same classes.

I:          Um hm.

S:         went to Swedish Hospital so we worked there.  It’s 1954, April.


I:          Nineteen fifty-four?

S:         Four, yeah.  We were educated in 1954 March

I:          Um hm.

S:         And then April we start with working at Swedish Hospital.

I:          Um hm.  So that was Danish nurse.  But she talked about Swedish Red Cross.

S:         Yeah.

I:          That’s nice.

S:         She told us, yes.  But I, I wish that  I met her.


But, uh, unfortunately  she died before I can.

I:          Okay.  And in your school, how many students as a nurse, how many students were there when you were there, in your [INAUDIBLE] school, yes.

S:         You mean my class?

I:          Yes.

S:         My class?

I:          Yeah

S:         were 15.

I:          Fifteen?
S:         Um.

I:          Just

S:         We, uh, they had 16 they, um over planned,


they think some, somehow one is to drop.  So we had 15 educated.

I:          Wow.  That’s a real privilege.  During the War, I mean after the War, you went to the nursing school and just 15.

S:         Um hm.

I:          [INAUDIBLE]  She was the elite at the time.  So did you pay the tuition to the school when you were in school, no?  It was all free?


S:         Yeah.  We, uh, we lived in the school.  But we get food from school.

I:          Ah.

S:         Um hm.  But it was a,  like, uh, help nurses because we are students.  So we help the nurses of course.  But we didn’t get any pay.

I:          Um hm.


S:         All the schooling material because we had to pay money ourself.   When in the school, we haven’t paid.
I:          So who established that school?  Who paid for it?

S:         The Administration in the hospital.
I:          Okay.

S:         Um hm.

I:          What hospital?

S:         In Taejon.

I:          Taejon.

S:         Um.  And as I said before, unfortunately it still, nothing is there now.

I;          Um hm.  So the, let me say in English


Taejon, T-A-E-J-E-O-N, Taejon High Nursing School

S:         Yes.
I:          Yes.  And she graduate, and she joined the Swedish Red Cross Field Hospital.  That’s amazing.  So tell me about when you joined the  Swedish Red Cross Hospital there

S:         Um hm.

I:          What was it?  Did you, did they train you or what, how, how was the reception,


and what kind of work did you do?  Just tell me everything about your work in hospital.

S:         Yes, okay.  Excuse me.

I:          Sure, sure, sure.  So please go ahead about

S:         Yeah.  Uh, as I said we, we start before my friends from same school from Taejon, we came to Swedish Hospital,


and we had, we, uh, we haven’t had any room

I:          Um.

S:         But this was when we found after Korean, uh, transportation [INAUDIBLE] transportation hospital in Pusan had, uh, [INAUDIBLE] so we could stay there or, for, uh, our friends.

I:          Um hm.


S:         And then Swedish Hospital had transportation to employee in big trucks

I:          Um.
S:         that at that time were not safety belt or nobody thinking about it.  So we jump in truck and then we come to hospital, and we start at 7:00 in the morning.  We worked 12 hours,


7:00 to 7:00 in the evening.  But when we come in hospitals look at all the view

I:          Um.
S:         At that time, was just after, uh, War or many, I don’t know.  I have to say like this.  But many nurses, many


men, uh, and the nurses, they say that they are nurse or they educated in so and so.  But in fact, they didn’t

I:          Hm.

S:         They just come to work, to a job.  That’s after the War or some, uh, [INAUDIBLE]


So when we come to, in the room, patient room was not enough.  They had the barrack.  So, barrack one, barrack two, like that or both sides, uh, patients, eight beds.  So 16 patients at one barrack or like that.  And I was very


surprised because one of the Swedish nurse asked me can you give injection patients?  What was she asking me?  I’m a [INAUDIBLE], and you can’t get the nurse.  And she asked me if I could give injection.

I:          Injection, uh huh.

S:         I was very surprised.  But yes.  I said yes all because I couldn’t speak English so much, proper English yet.


There was English what I learned in the school, you know.  So

I:          Um hm.

S:         But we could do communication.  And, uh, I said, uh, yes, I can.  Oh, I [INAUDIBLE] very, very bad.  You know, [INAUDIBLE] proud I finished the nurse I’m proud.  And then somebody asked me such a thing.  So there I was a little sad about it

I:          Um.

S:         Okay.  Uh, I stayed, the first night


[INAUDIBLE] I go back to home if they treatment like that, you know.  But now, afterwards I found out, as I said before, many people there said that they are nurse and that they can under, Swedish knows that, see that I found out, I found out after that that was not true.

I:          Um hm.

S:         That’s why they, they thought I


almost liked that.  But when they found out we are near, uh, we, we hope for friends and we are good nurses so we got very good treatment, uh.  That was hard.  I mean, very difficult to get the job outside, even though you get Korean hospital not get the same amount.


I forgot now how much I got [INAUDIBLE] ever your money a month, month.

I:          Um hm.
S:         But anyhow we had more money than Koran hospital our

I:          Nurse.

S:         Nurse, yes.

I:          Hm.

S:         So we were [INAUDIBLE]  We found out that that’s very good treatment

I:          Um.

S:         After, since we four come from Taejon


to Pusan, uh, it was very difficult.  The transportation from downtown to come together, uh, many men or, you know, so we talked to Head Nurse with difficult we get any room in the hospital.  So we get one barrack ourselves.  So we had very good at that time,


we think.

I:          Um hm.

S:         But if I think now in Swedish way, it was not so.

I:          Obviously it was during the War.  So, but, so you said that you, your barrack was in the transportation hospital or was it in the Pusan [INAUDIBLE] with the Swedish?  Where did you sleep, in the, with the Swedish?

S:         In, in the hospital, in

I:          In the hospital?

S :        Yeah.  They had a small, uh, we lived back.


I:          For you?

S:         For our, for me

I:          Four of you, yes.

S:         All four.

I:          That’s very nice.

S:         It was, um hm.

I:          So see.  Swedish is good.

S:         Yes, they  are, yes, yes.  I don’t blame them.  But I think seven, 12 hours we worked, though

I:          Yeah, yeah.

S:         Don’t forget.

I:          Yeah, right.  I mean, it was during the War.

S:         Yeah.
I:          It was during the War.

S:         Well, that’s why we were so thankful we were, yeah.  And we got more


salary than before we work in Korea

I:          Yeah.

S:         [INAUDIBLE]  So we are thankful.  And I had many Swedish friends.

I:          Very good

S:         Even in Korea.

I:          So that was after the War when you joined the Swedish hospital there.

S:         Um hm.

I:          So mostly, who were the patients, and where did you work, and what was your main job description?


S:         That, I think the Swedish Red Cross, they come to Sweden, to Korea because they decided to help what is, uh, who was wounded during the War.

I:          Um hm.

S:         But since they

I:          You mean for soldiers mostly/
S:         Um hm.

I:          Yes.

S:         But since they see the Sweden


was children or even grown people was sick or even they had very wound because of the accident in War, you know.  Somebody lost a leg or still not, uh, feel some.  So that, that’s why they get, even Sweden accepted.


I:          Um hm.

S:         That’s just why [ANITA] was one of the patient was, uh.  But we had the gate in the hospital because so many wanted to come to see this hospital.  It’s impossible to take it all.

I:          Um hm.
S:         So they had a gate and one, um, Swedish gate keeper and Korean gate keeper together.  They control all


[INAUDIBLE] in the morning so they can stop how many come in the hospital.  And the small children who was sick or because they have to come in the first.  So many Swedens I had.  We had the surgical.  We had the medical.  We had the, un, Emergency.  We had the operation.

I:          Um hm.

S:         We had the, uh,



VOICE:  Surgery,

S:         Uh,

I:          Plastic surgery.

S:         Yeah, plastic, yeah.  I was worked the Plastic

I:          Surgery

S:         Uh.  And, uh, my friend was, uh, one was surgery and one was medical ward.  One was operation.  We, that was near


the hospital and, uh.  But that was [INAUDIBLE] in Pusan, Korean high school was. I don’t, I don’t remember, uh, what the name was.  But the high school was occupied

I:          Pusan [INAUDIBLE]

S:         Uh, yeah.

I:          Yeah.  So B-U-S-A-N  Trade High School or [COMMIS] High school.  Yeah.


S:         But after it was 1955 or ’56, I don’t exactly remember.  We moved

I:          Moved to

S:         to

I:          College, yes.

S:         Yes, college.  You know that.

I:          Yes, yes.

S:         Um hm.  And there I was , also I worked Plastic

I:          Um hm.

S:         Then after our professional


doctor Stan, maybe you know that, Stan, uh, Stn or he moved to three and t hen I moved to [INAUDIBLE] American soldiers ward.  I worked there.

I:          Um hm.
S:         So we had last year had American patients almost all the Korean speaking.

I:          Korean, yes.

S:         patients.


I:          Oh, were you ready to help?  I mean,  you had a 3 ½ year old practice and learning from the school.   And working in the operation room with the Swedish doctors and Swedish surgeon.  How was it?  Were you ready?  You were already qualified?  How was it working with the Swedish doctor, to?  What is it?


S:         Well, Swedish doctor, they was very, very kind and although there was no program.  But of course they just thinking about the patient to take care of

I:          Yeah.

S:         That was a little bit different than Swedish mind or Korean mind.  I don’t know because we were deep friends [INAUDIBLE] or something like that.  But, uh,


Swedish people, they treated us very good, very good.  Of course, some, I mean, so many Swedish people, so many Korean people, someone is a little bit nasty to Korean people.

I:          Exceptionally yes, yeah.  Always.  But did you have any difficulty because you just got out of the school?


So there were any  difficulty or you were not prepared in the operation room or were you completely ready?

S:         Fortunately, I hadn’t any problems.

I:          Um hm.

S:         No. I worked, I mean, I, I was very good cooperating to Swedish nurses and Swedish nurses taking very good and, uh, no.  I worked for three years uh, in Swedish hospital.


But I never had any trouble.

I:          Okay.

S:         In fact, I got my references from Swedish medical course.

I:          Oh.  that’s very nice.  How was it to look at all those sick Korean people after the, even though it’s right after the War, but still there are so many

S:         Um hm.

I:          And there are not many Korean hospital

S:         Um hm.

I:          You know, we didn’t have enough of anything.  How was it to look at those people, your own people,


from the Swedish Red Cross Hospital?  It’s a little bit different, isn’t it?

S:         Um hm.

I:          They are all Korean.  But you were in Swedish.  It’s almost like extra territoriality.  How was it to look at your own people?

S:         Have to say sometimes I got angry, I must have said, because, you know, Korean mentality.



I:          Uh huh.,

S:         So when we treated the, one patient for that [SUPPER], other patients, they get angry because we do it only that one or they, they think we don’t care about this.  So they [INAUDIBLE] sometimes it’s a confusion

I:          Uh huh.


S:         because I have to between Swedish I’m in a, you know

I:          So you are in between.

S:         Yeah.
I:          And there are Swedish doctors in operation, and all these Korean people who has not been treated were angry.  So they yell at you, and them you have to be in the middle.

S:         Neu, neutral, neutral I would say.  But, uh, right.


Patients are very thankful for, that they get treatment sooner or later.

I:|         Of course, yeah.

S:         It was very, but, I say again the Swedish doctors they take very good care of patients, yes.

I:          You don’t, you said you don’t remember how much you were paid.  Roughly.  [LANGUAGE]

S:         Unfortunately, I don’t remember exactly some

I:          [LANGUAGE]


S:         Yeah.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember.

I:          So you were given food, right, by the hospital.

S:         Um hm.

I:          How about clothes, uniform?

S:         No, no.  Unform, yes.

I:          You got uniform.

S:         And the

I:          Place to sleep.

S:         Uh.

I:          So almost all the money, you could save it or you can, you could use it for your family.

S:         Yeah.

I:          Uh huh.


S:         So I was, uh, myself was a very spoiled girl because I was a last children and, uh, I owned myself and so.  But many, many people who is working in the hospital had a family, and they come from North Korea.  And many young men about, between 25 and  30 or           40


they  hide in the Swedish Hospital, you know, because the Korean, they want to take them to the military.  So many young, uh, men, they don’t want to work the military so work in the Swedish Hospital ward.  So they hide.  In fact, they hide.

I:          Yeah, why not.


I don’t want to go to War and be killed.  So there were about 200 Korean people working in the hospital, right?

S:         Yeah, almost, yes.

I:          Yeah.  So what do they, what did they do?

S:         Well, in Korean, I mean kitchen, we had people has to eat lunch.

I:          Ah.  So you, you able to eat Korean food there?

S:         Yeah, yeah, in the hospital.  And the one, we had two kitchens.

I:          Uh huh.


S:         One was Swedish kitchen.  And one was only Korean employees.  So Korean employees, they eat lunch for, without any pay.

I:          Um hm.

S:         So they eat, uh, just [INAUDIBLE] [HOPEFULLY OVERCHARGED]

I:          What kind of food was it , rice?

S:         Right, that was a lot so, yeah.


Rice of course.

I:          Um hm.  And soup.

S:         Soup.  And chimchi of course

I:          Yeah.
S:         and, uh, sometimes a little bit of fish or, or a little bit meat, yes.

I:          Um.
S:         Sausages.
I:          Sausage.
S:         Um hm.
I:          Um.

S:         But yes, men.  They, they liked to eat there.  But we had a special kitchen and a


cupboard for only Swedish people, yes.

I:          Um.  Have you tried the food that Swedish doctors and nurses ate at the time?
S:         No.

I:          No?

S:         No.  But, but I could, I could eat in the ward, uh, since I told you I worked in Korean ward.

I:          Yes.

S:         Over there, we could eat.  So Korean food come from Swedish kitchen.

I:          Yes.

S:         from there.  So you could, uh, I want to eat.  So I can


I:          All you could eat.

S:         Yeah.

I:          Which one did you like most, better, Swedish or Korean?
S:         At that time of course, Korean.

I:          But there should be more meat in Swedish.

S:         Yes, yes.  But I learned there so when I come to Sweden it was no problem to eat the Swedish food.  Many of the Korean people who is coming here, they had very trouble with the food.

I:          Yeah.

S:         with the Korean spice or something like no, we couldn’t find in Sweden at that time.


That’s what, but, uh, I haven’t any trouble because I learned already eat Korean food a little bit.

I:          So when did you leave Korea?

S:         Nineteen fifty-seven.

I:          Oh.

S:         April.

I:          April?

S:         Um hm.

I:          So that’s when the Swedish operation ended.

S:         Uh, yes, almost.

I:          Yeah,

S:         Almost.

I:          Yeah.

S:           Yes, um hm.


I:          And how, how did you, um, find that opportunity to come to Sweden?  Who  invite you or what happened?

S:         Love story.

I:          Love story.  So you met Swedish man?

S:         Yes, Swedish, he, he come to Korean [INAUDIBLE]

I:          Was he nurse or administrator?

S:         Uh, no.  Both.


I:          Both.  So his name is Bent?

S:         Yeah.  [[INAUDIBLE]

I:          Um hm.  So tell me.  How did you meet him, and what did you do with him?

S:         Well, he, uh, in fact, when he was military, he doesn’t want to with the, the shot, with a gun or like that.


So he learned, so hospital [STAMMERS] aid, nurse aid, yes, nurse aid.  And then he come to Korea as a nurse aid.

I:          Um hm.

S:         But after he was, uh, got the job in the hospital police, we have to have so many


shifts so they need.  So he was there.  But he come second.  The first time he was, I think it was in ’52 or.  All the Swedish people, they had only six months, uh, contract.

I:          Yep.

S:         So he was also after six months.  But he liked it so much[INAUDIBLE] the Red Cross and come back to Sweden.


But I didn’t know who, who he was.  And the second time I meet him

I:          Should I, should I trust her at this point?
S:         Second time, he, he come, many Korean people said oh, Mr. Olsson came back.  I didn’t know who was  Mr. Olsson.  But I don’t know why h e liked me I was, I was a very stubborn girl.


I  don’t look at men.  I just, uh, concentrate on my job.   And, uh, I like to be with  my friends and so.  But, uh, I don’t know how, how he found me.

I:          And so he asked for a date?

S:         First I, uh, he didn’t.  But, uh, as I said, I work with him one day if I,


tell his story.  One day I walked with a patient, and the patient said hey you, uh, since my family name is You.  So patients, American patients called me Me.  Hey Miss Me.

I:          You and me.

S:         So they call me Miss Me.  Hey Miss Me.  Your boyfriend look at you.  I didn’t have any boyfriend.


Yes, he passed here.  I was very surprised.  I didn’t know.  Honest.  So I was curious of who it was.  So I have to go look at then my husband.  He smiles.  He just go.  He didn’t say anything.  But, uh,

I:          So he’s, he’s been watching over you.

S:         Since, seems to be he.  But I didn’t know it


because I don’t care, even Korean men who was shy but I, my family live in Taejon.  I work there.  I was in Korean mind, you know, before something hear from my family was I, my behavior was like that.  So I’m sorry for my family.  So I was, as I learned from my family.  But anyhow


he liked very much hunting.  So he was

I:          What is hunting?

VOICE:  Hunting.

I:          Hunting, hunting, okay.  I’m sorry.

S:         Uh, then he was uh, uh, [INAUDIBLE]

VOICE:  Deer.

S:         Yeah, deer, yes.

I:          Um.

S:         I forgot a lot about [INAUDIBLE[.  And then he said he, he keeps a Swedish kitchen,


and then he wants to have some parties and he just tell the cook, and they, he make, they make some big part y.  And then, so then one day he said, uh, do you like to come to my party?  No, no.  Never.  Then he, he told me that, that a lot of Korean nurses and, uh, uh, some Korean men, they come to party.


So you can come.   So I was a little bit curious.

I:          Hm.

S:         I’m okay.   My best friend also worked with me there.  So I went over there but we had a very good.  but I always said it’s a distance. You can come here not longer than that here.  And then my part was finished, everybody go to couples.  So just after couples, he, he and me.


Oh then I, I go out with him for [INAUDIBLE].  That was first our date.

I:          Ah hah.

S:         But don’t misunderstood.  He said don’t worry.  I know Korean custom.  Don’t worry.  You know, so, yeah.  But anyhow,


at the time when we met to the day  [INAUDIBLE]  But he was, that’s why  I married with him, ah ha.  He is a dear, dear, earnest man.  He loves me.  So.

I:          I think he is very patient man.  I, I cannot wait like that.  So you, you must have met really nice man.

S:         Yes

I:          Okay.

S:         Yes, yes.
I:          So he asked you to marry you?

S:         Yeah.

I:          So where did you marry?


S:         Well, I married in fact, [INAUDIBLE] in Sweden.

I:          Um.
S:         But Korean, I don’t want people know that I married him before that at that time.

I:          Yeah.
S:         Now is, everybody want married with young girls.

I:          But not at the time.

S:         At that time, yes.

I:          Yeah.

S:         I was such kind of woman.

I:          Um.
S:         You know what I mean.


So I don’t want to, to m, my, of course my mother or my brothers to say no.  He loves you.  He can promise with you.  Go to Sweden or whatever.  But he takes you to Sweden after all the love is, uh,

I:          Gone?

S:         less?  [Cold, at the cold]?  Then I, we don’t know how he, how he treats you.

I:          Um.
S:         So we can’t send you.  So my,


I used to say I think I, think no girl has cried so much for, because of a marriage.  I cried because what’s in, okay, I marry with, to him.  But I never see my mother, my sister at that time.

I:          Um.
S:         You can’t, you cannot fly just to free, you know.


And then I said okay.  Let him go.  I stay Korea.  I never see him.  And then I cry.  That was, that was very, very hard for me.  And he was very kind.  And anyhow, my mother come to me three months I think about you she said.


From the now  your life, I’m get old.  I cannot take care of you. All my life I’m going to die before you.  So you, your life, if you think that he is dearly earnest, dearly I love you, okay.  You get married.  That’s when my, my mother gave me power.  My mother gave me power.

I:          Love story.

S:         Also then my mother  said, uh,


you have to get the wedding first before you leave Korea.

I:          Um.
S:         I said I know, mommy.  Just leave it because when I get wedding, you, you, you cannot imagine.  But anyhow I said wedding, my, our friends, our relatives, everybody


comes.  Eat, drink and when they went back say that their daughter has been such a kinder, you know what I mean, I don’t want my mother, my brother and my sister to hear that.  So let me, let them know that I’m still in Pusan working


I:          Um.
S:         Because I was, had my Taejon and Pusan was a long distance.  So I, I left my husband.

I:          Um.

S:         And I must say my husband, he was fantastic.  Combination with a, a, honeymoon, Japan and Hong Kong and Bangkok and, you know, and come to Sweden.


But when I see all the good things, the beautiful things, I never enjoyed it.  I just [INAUDIBLE] you know?  If I could see such a beautiful with my mother and my sisters.

I:          Yeah.

S:         I see my, myself [HOLD IN THAT CRY].  Now I think oh poor my husband.  He was only 24.  I was 22 you know.


Honeymoon,  uh, my only cry, cry.  But he, he never angry.  He is, said, hugging me, I’m sorry.  It’s my fault.  I take you here.

I:          Oh, he is such a nice man.
S:         So I, I was happy married, yes.

I:          Where did you marry?


S:         Sigtuna, in Sweden.

I:          Sweden.  Okay.  I think it’s 2;00.

S:         I’m sorry.

I:          No, no, no, no.  So you came to Sweden being married with your husband, Bent.  And then, were you able to, you were able to go back to Korea many times, right?  When did you go back to Korea?

S:         First time since I came to Sweden, first time I went to Korea


was, uh, 1973.  So after 16 years I went back.  That was first time since I left Korea.

I:          Why didn’t you go to Korea earlier?
S:         Well, I live, I lived in Sweden almost two years.  We lived almost two years, uh, after my husband get a job


in Africa.

I:          Africa.

S:         Um hm.  So we, uh, he went to, six months before me, and after six months I went to Africa, and I had a chance to work there, uh, in, um, my husband’s company, my husband’s work in that same company I could work.  So at that time, I think so.


When I chance to earn money here, I have to earn so go back to Korea.

I:          I see.

S:         Um.

I:          And when you went back to, ’73.  And then after that, you went many times to Korea?

S:         Yeah.

I:          Okay.
S:         Um hm.

I:          So, this is the question that I used, I ask every veteran about this.  Because what they saw during the War in 1950’s


is completely destroyed Korea, so poor

S:         Yes.

I:          So bad.

S:         I know.

I:          But, and they never, never, never  thought that Korea would become like this today.  Korea is 11th largest economy in the world.  It’s much bigger than Sweden.

S:         Yes.

I:          And, wo when they, when I ask them have you ever thought that Korea would become like this today, they don’t like that.


And then when they go back to Korea, what did you see, and they just cry.

S:         Um hm.

I:          What was it like to be in Korea in 1973?
S:         I wrote a letter to my brother.  I know it’s very difficult to come to Kimpo.  So stay home.  When I arrive at Kimpo, I will take a


taxi come to, to see you.  And then they come to Kimpo and met me.

I:          Of course.

S:         Yeah.  Then they said that you seen a Korea like when you left, but now we’re getting much better.  So we could come meet you.  And I cried.  I cried.  I look at Kimpo


and I come to Seoul, it’s still, uh, what, see Europe and Korea.  But my, myself, I said we have to [INAUDIBLE].  We had more, although still come up.  So I was veery, very surprised.  And then


19 and, uh, wait, between 1973 and 19, uh, 92, I had, with my husband, oh.  He was so, so happy to see Korea. He was, he, he couldn’t


believe t o see Korea develop so fantastic, fast.  So I was very proud.  I was very proud.

I:          To be a Korean, right?

S:         Yes.  Even now, I’m veery proud.  I give the Korean people, [INAUDIBLE] people I said look it.  Korea had just a little bit over 60


years we are free from war.   How I knew about the three or four years ago, Korea was fourth plus for all the, the, develop the mobile, hand phone

I:          Smart phone, yeah.

S:         So look it.  I shouldn’t say.  But India and all those countries,


they are war, war, war, war, war, war. I don’t see anything.  But look it.  I’m very proud.

But after [INAUDIBLE] so many problems that I was a little bit

I:          That’s right, yeah.

S:         That, that I can say to you.

I:          Yes.  I, I, we completely understand that.  And that is the good thing. Very good thing came,


I mean, it’s some kind of irony that we, we lost so many people, two million people killed and wounded and injured

S:         Um hm.

I:          all together, and we are still divided by the Communism and Free World, North Korea and South Korea.  But I think through the Korean War, Korea, South Korea became the strongest ever in our history.  That’s irony.

S:         Yes.

I:          Historical irony.  But because of all these good things done by so many different people including


Swedish Red Cross Field Hospital and so  many doctors and nurses and, uh, and the people who worked in the different, uh, jobs, Korea became one of the best.  One of the best.

S:         Happy to hear that.

I:          But still known as Forgotten War, [LANGUAGE]

S:         Yes.

I:          And I don’t think Swedish really, history teach about this.
S:         Um hm.


I:          Why not?

S:         Yes.

I:          Why do you think they don’t teach?

S:         I think because Swedish, Sweden was around Communist 19, 19, uh, 70’s, 80’s,

I:          Leftist.

S:         Yeah.

I:          Yeah.

S:         So I think that’s it’s, uh, [little bit helps]

I:          I see, okay.
S:         Um hm.


I:          Because there was Socialists here, but they don’t want to talk about much, okay.
S:         And even, they show the tv very often in North Korea

I:          I see, um hm.

S:         Best place and some.  But never South Korea.

I:          Oh.
S:         So 19, uh, 70’s, 80’s, yes, Swedish was, uh, I, I used to say they were



I:          Um.  I mean, Sweden is the first country who normalized the relationship with North Korea in 1958.  And there has been some changes between left  and right wing.  But because there’s a strong tradition of Socialist idea that might have been a factor.  Okay.  Um, as a Swedish Korean, what would you say


about Swedish Red Cross Field Hospital did for Korean people?  What would you say?  How would you characterize it?  [LANGUAGE]  What is the historical importance of it?

S:         You mean about, uh,

I:          about what Swedish Hospital did for Koreans

S:         Yeah.
I:          in historical sense.


S:         Yeah.  I think it, uh, they have done a very good job in Sweden, I mean, in Korea because, uh, since they came to take care of only our soldiers but after they see the civilians, uh, that need treatment.  So they hands over to civilians.


They, lot of, lot of people they helped.  A lot of people, they could find their own life. So that was really thankful

I:          Um hm

S:         impact.  Or even though or, or we were all the, the [INAUDIBLE] people was work there in the, in, uh, economic side.


They could have taken all their families because we could [EARN] in Swedish Hospital although we had 12 hours work hard when we were thankful, yes. Uh, but I used to joke with the Swedish, Swedish people since where I come, uh, I more less became, I left Korea 60  years ago now.

I:          Um hm.
S:         So I used to joke with them.  You, you hadn’t been part  of this


is Korean I used to say because they have more freedom than they were in Sweden.  Since I come to Sweden, I see how they working.

I:          Um hm.  How is it different?

S:         Oh they, um, because they, first of all they have a very, very, shorter work hours.  And, uh, only acute men in hospital.  They have one in the hospital.


But they’ve been, we were, we don’t have them.  We have to find out how to treat patients and so on, you know.  All those Swedish people we get supplied from Sweden.  But that’s not always perfect we had.
I:          Yeah.
S:         So that was a little bit different.  But, uh, as Swedish people, there was more free when they were in Korea. And, and after six months [EDUCATION], they could, uh, vacation in Japan.


I think they got one week in Japan.
I:          Yep.
S:         So that’s why I used to joke with them.  You had been in paradise.
I:          Okay.  Next year will be 70th anniversary.  It’s kind of ridiculous because we signed the cease fire 1953, and we haven’t had any peace treaty.  So, um, do you have any


message to your own people in Korea, Korean people, about 70th anniversary of the Korean War?

S:         I don’t know how, uh, how much I can say as honest from my heart.  But, uh,

I:          You can say in Korean, too, if you want to.

S:         [LANGUAGE]


[LANGUAGE] continued.


[LANGUAGE] continued.

I:          Um.

S:         [LANGUAGE]


[LANGUAGE] continued.


I:          If I translate briefly, even though I wasn’t there when Korea was developing, I was in Sweden.  So I said that I didn’t do much  about it.  Uh, but I am so proud that Korea become like this today, one of the most wealthy and democratic country in the world, and that’s a marvelous thing, and you did very well.  And so if there is something that you have


some problem now, please end it and work together, not fight against each other and work for the better of Korea.

S:         Yes.
I:          And I am so proud, and the reason that I’m saying is because even though I wasn’t  there, I have my family there, my niece and nephews and my family’s still there, and as a Korean, I am so proud.  That’s why I’m asking you.  Is that right?

S:         Thank you.  Exactly.

I:          Exactly.  Okay.

S:         Exactly. Thank you.


I:          Even though you weren’t there after the, uh, after you left in 1957, but you did a lot work to save a lot of your own people in Pusan from 1954 to ’57.  So you shouldn’t forget it.  You should proud of yourself.  And you actually represented Korean medical team there to the Swedish people.  So you should be proud of yourself,


and I am so proud of you.

S:         Thank you.

I:          Um.

S:         Thank you.

I:          Do you have, uh, how many children do you have and grandchildren?

S:         Unfortunately, I don’t have.

I:          Oh, you don’t have.  I’m sorry to hear that.

S:         It’s okay.

I:          Yeah.  Is there any other message or any episode you remember wants to share with us?

S:         You mean in Korea or

I:          Whatever.  Whatever the, things that you wanna say to this, things that you didn’t tell me yet, you haven’t told me yet.


S:         A little bit of difficult, no.

I:          No.  Um.  Sweden is such a beautiful and very strong, and it’s just amazing.  And I think you have lived your life very happy here with a wonderful husband.

S:         Uh, yes, yes.


But, uh, I’m so, uh, if I say that what might been coming out that’s why I don’t want to say that.

I:          Um hm.

S:         If [LANGUAGE]


I:          So is your husband alive?

S:         Unfortunately, he passed away in 2011.

I:          Eleven.
S:         Um hm.
I:          Eight years ago.
S:         Yes.
I:          Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.
S:         He was almost 80 years.

I:          Um.

S:         But, he left me.  I miss him very much.
I:          Very much, yes.  Yeah.


I mean from hearing from you, he must been a wonderful man and husband.
S:         Yes.
I:          So you had a happy marriage.
S:         Yes, yes, yes.  Very, very, very.

I:          Um, Mrs. Olsson, um, it is my great honor and privilege to meet you here.  Thank you for coming.  And it’s quite different from Swedish Korean who


worked at the Swedish Hospital in Pusan during, after the War and to, to learn more about all this operations.  And, uh, I wanna thank you for your, uh, service during the, during the, uh, Swedish Red Cross Hospital from ’54 to ’57.  You cured so many of your own people, Korean people.  And now you are proud Swedish Korean.  So I wanna thank you.


You are the living witness of this War and transformation of Korea and the relationship between Sweden and South Korea.

S:         Thank you very much.


[End of Recorded Material]