Terry Lee tells us about his journey home through a series of stunning photos and interesting descriptions about modern Korea.



The small house and the tree commemorate one of my ancestors. Said ancestor was a woman who lived three to four hundred years ago, reputed to be a great woman and wife. Yet, due to several circumstances she is said to have suffered greatly in life and as a result had this monument and tree planted to honor her memory.

From a modern perspective, this monument can be considered quite sexist due to the fact that monuments such as this were reserved for women who had performed a great sacrifice to the family, and were intrinsically submissive to the clan at large. But, from a Confucian perspective, this was the traditional way of honoring and asking for forgiveness to the honored women. At least, so the custom goes.

My father was quite upset about the recent death of the tree which is recorded to have lived for at least 300 years. It is hard to grow a new one due to the fact that the town in which my ancestral home resides is slowly becoming a ghost town.

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My grandfather used to smoke quite a bit back in the days when he was still alive. So, whenever my father and I visit his grave, we make a habit of lighting a cigarette to his memory. Suffice it to say, the smoke goes out quite quickly out here. Could it be that my grandfather, even in the afterlife craves for some smoke?

Perhaps I am over imagining things.

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Only old men and women seemed to live in my ancestral home, all distant relatives and members of my clan. Perhaps they are the last vestige of an ideology that is deemed obsolete in a Korea that is looking towards the future. So, the future of the nation moves to the cities as young men and women find their home towns desolate, severely lacking of decent paying jobs.

With this mass migration, those who would have inherited this town have chased after the glint of prosperity. The sense of community remains here with those who would not be able to imagine a life without it.

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This is a frontal picture of my family’s clan hall, a relic of the past which my family is struggling to maintain. The problem comes from multiple facets, mainly a lack of funding, as well as a lack of public interest. The water seeps from the roof to the main rooms, making it nearly impossible to make residence in the monsoon season.

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My father thanks the sole caretaker of the clan hall for her dedication and hard work. She smiles, saying that it is her pleasure, and that she is able to share the sentiments and the value she places upon family heritage.

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Terry Lee