History and Geography are very much stories. There is so much more to the study of both other than dates and maps. Both are the story of humanity and the ways that we have shaped the world, both good and bad. In order to understand both, it helps to hear the stories of those who lived it.
On February 13th, the 7th and 8th grade Cultural Geography class had the privilege to hear firsthand the stories of the invasion of southern Korea by the northern Korean and to discover a taste of Korean culture from someone who lived it. Mrs. Chae Thames and her son, Mr. Joey Thames, came to share their stories with the class. Mrs. Thames, a native of South Korea, was a small child in 1950 when the invasion began. She shared the story of fleeing her home in Seoul with her parents and sister. Mr. Thames described it as if “all the population of Upstate South Carolina fleeing to Charleston.” They walked most of the way and their family was separated for a month at one time. When they returned to Seoul 3 years later, they found people living in their home. They also shared stories of the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910-1945. Mrs. Thames’ grandfather was a Korean freedom fighter. Both Mr. and Mrs. Thames went to Korea in 2010 when Mrs. Thames’ grandfather was honored for his work to free Korea from the Japanese.
The Thames also shared some of Korean culture with the students. They talked about a typical school day and the subjects studied. (Our students did not like the idea of staying at school until 4:00-5:00 each afternoon.) Up until a few years ago, Korean students went to school on Saturdays. We also learned that the world’s largest Protestant church is in Korea. The church has 1 million members, 7 services every Sunday. They also brought traditional Korean clothing and food. The students enjoyed rice with roasted seaweed, Korean pears, persimmons, some Korean snacks (crackers and something like a sweet peanut flavored puffy Cheeto), and the brave tried kimchi. 7th grade student, Ethan Saxton, said “the information was very historical and amazing.” One surprising thing they shared was that the Korean people do not think of themselves as two countries, North Korea and South Korea. They still view themselves as one country and hope for reunification.
We are so thankful to the Mrs. Thames and Mr. Thames for coming to speak with us and sharing the history and culture of Korea with us!