"There isn’t a finger that doesn’t hurt when bit,” goes the Korean saying, meaning every one of your children is precious. But in my case, one finger does hurt more than the others, and that’s my first child, my son. As a boy, he was very gentle and never gave me any trouble. He’s thirty this year, but even now I sometimes open his bedroom door at night to look upon his sleeping face, simply grateful he’s still here. When a child runs away, most Korean mothers would think their child must’ve fallen in with some bad kids or was bullied; it couldn’t possibly be the child’s fault. And when my son ran away in his senior year of high school, I became one of these mothers. He returned four days later and refused to go to college. I thought it was just stress, as his grades weren’t bad and his teachers praised him.
So I sat down with him to help him practice essay writing and debate, which got him accepted to an engineering program at a good school. I thought he enjoyed it there. He joined clubs, went on trips, and took a part-time job. I had no idea he was secretly on leave from university.