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South Korean author credits Rose State College for her success
Her classmates never knew the nightmare she'd endured.
Jeanhee Kang, now 55, moved to Midwest City in 1982 and enrolled at Rose State College, fulfilling a dream that had sustained her for years. The prospect of getting an American education, of becoming a success, was all that kept her going when the darkness around her drew too close.
Kang, who was then known as Chin Hui Isleib, kept quiet about her past. She was ashamed, embarrassed. If the other students knew what she'd done … well, she feared she'd be an outcast.
She'd been one before.
That was then. Today Kang is a successful businesswoman and the author of “Run Away: One Woman's Story of Resilience,” which recounts her desperate efforts to escape South Korea and make it on her own in America.
She will be signing copies of her book, written with the help of ghost writers due to her imperfect English, at 2 p.m. Sunday at Full Circle Books in Oklahoma City. As part of her trip, she has arranged also to speak to classes and sign books at Rose State. Kang shared her story in a series of email exchanges with The Oklahoman.
No longer keeping secrets, Kang is using her experiences to encourage other women that nightmares can turn into dreams.
Kang grew up in South Korea during the 1970s, a period of repressive political and social mores. Girls wore uniforms everywhere and weren't allowed to watch foreign films or go to coffee shops. They were supposed to remain chaste and untouched until they married someone chosen for them by a matchmaker.
Her life changed at age 15 when she embarrassed a boy she knew, she said in an email to The Oklahoman. Angry, he lied and told her parents that he'd seen her kissing a boy.
When she returned home, “my Dad slapped my face and called me a whore,” she wrote. “My Mom didn't stand up for me, either. Up to that point, I was near-perfect daughter.”
Crushed that her parents didn't believe her, wounded by their condemnation, she wept long into the night. Gradually her sorrow turned to anger. If she was to be treated like a trollop, perhaps she should act like one.
That night, she went to see a neighbor boy on the pretense of returning his copy of “War and Peace.” They began a relationship that continued until she became pregnant. She aborted the child but was expelled from school.
“My life was over!” she wrote. “I was … never to be able to undo my mistakes or make up in any way. Koreans gave up on me, and I was never going to be able to recover from it.”