Ode to My Father
During the Hungnam Evacuation of 1950 in the Korean War, when thousands of refugees in what would become North Korea were transported south by U.S. Navy boats, a child, Deok-soo, loses his sister, Mak-soon. Deok-soo’s father stays behind to search for her, telling his son to take the boy’s mother and two younger siblings to the port city of Busan, where Deok-soo’s aunt runs an imported goods store. Before leaving the family, the father makes Deok-soo promise to be head of the household in his place.
Deok-soo becomes his family’s breadwinner from an early age, doing all sorts of odd jobs to support the family. In the 1960s, financial need forces him to travel to Europe with his best friend Dal-goo, where they find dangerous work as Gastarbeiter (guest workers) in German coal mines to pay for his brother’s tuition at Seoul National University. There, Deok-soo falls in love with a fellow migrant worker, nurse Young-ja. Deok-soo survives a mining accident and leaves Germany after his visa expires. Young-ja returns to Korea months later and tells him she’s pregnant with his child. They have a modest wedding, begin a life together, and eventually have two sons.