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Maija Devine - Immigrant Stories

Maija Rhee Devine and her twin brother were born into a Korean refugee family in Manchuria in 1943. Her parents could not afford to keep her, so gave her to a friend, who then took Maija to Seoul and gave her to a childless couple. That couple raised Maija as their own daughter, but years later when they had no male children to carry on the Confucian traditions, her father took in a mistress. A year later, the Korea War began, causing the family to flee Seoul. Maija talks at length about the family's complicated relationship with the mistress, about her experiences during the Korean War, and about her marriage in 1970 to Michael Devine, a Peace Corps volunteer working in Korea at the time.

Interview Links

Feature Excerpt

Maija remembers her parents

Abstract

Interview Session 01 (Audio)

Background of Korean culture and growing up during the Korea War

Interview Session 02 (Audio)

Post-war Korea, education in Seoul and the U.S., and marriage

Interview Session 03 (Audio)

Early years in United States and family’s years in Springfield

Interview Session 04 (Audio)

Years in Wyoming, at Truman Library, and writing her novel

Transcript

Photos

Caption

Maija Rhee as a baby, taken shortly after her adoption in Seoul in 1950.

Where:

Seoul

When:

1950

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija, age eight (left), and her cousin, age five, on the right, circa 1951. The two spent the war years in Masan, South Korea.

Where:

Masan, South Korea

When:

1951

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija graduated from Sogang College in Seoul in 1965. Here she is pictured in her cap and gown alongside her adoptive father.

Where:

Seoul

When:

1965

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija's older biological brother, Soon-back Rhee, in his Korean Navy uniform circa 1952.

Where:

Unknown

When:

1952

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija and her husband, Michael Devine (right), on their wedding day in November, 1970. To the left of Maija in the photo is Father John P. Daly, who was the first president of Sogang Jesuit University.

Where:

Unknown

When:

November, 1970

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Michael Devine (center right), sits down with some of his new in-laws on his wedding day in November, 1970. The women are, from left to right, two friends (bottom), Maija's cousin, Maija's aunt, and Maija's adoptive mother.

Where:

Unknown

When:

November, 1970

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija Devine's Alien Registration Receipt Card (front side).

Where:

Unknown

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Maija Devine's Alien Registration Receipt Card (reverse side).

Where:

Unknown

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

This image is considered to be in the public domain.

Caption

Maija and husband Michael Devine, who is holding their son, Bret, in 1972.

Where:

Unknown

When:

1972

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija Devine with two of her children, big sister Mia on the right and her baby sister Lisa (left), in the early 1980s when the family lived in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Where:

Cincinnati, Ohio

When:

Early 1980s

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija's older biological brother, Soon-back Rhee, visiting Gen. Douglas MacArthur's statue in Freedom Park in 2010. The statue overlooks Inchon Harbor, which was the site of General MacArthur's Inchon landing.

Where:

Freedom Park

When:

2010

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija's older biological brother, Soon-back Rhee, placing flowers on General MacArthur's statue in Freedom Park in Inchon.

Where:

Freedom Park, Inchon

When:

2010

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija's older biological brother, Soon-back Rhee, visiting a Korean War memorial in Seoul, circa 2010.

Where:

Seoul

When:

2010

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija's biological family. From left to right: Maija's older brother Soon-back Rhee, twin brother Jongjeon Rhee, mother Jon Whock-sill, and younger brother Soon-il Rhee, taken in 1994.

Where:

Unknown

When:

1994

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija Devine and her half brother Bong-jin Rhee share a meal together at her cousin’s home in Seoul in 2010.

Where:

Seoul

When:

2010

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija’s older biological brother, Soon-back Rhee (born 1934) with the Young-heung Island in the background, in 2011. In the background is the hill Korean marines cleared of Communists in preparation for the Inchon landings in September, 1950.

Where:

Unknown

When:

2011

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

The book cover to Maija Rhee Devine's novel, The Voices of Heaven, which was published in 2013.

Where:

Unknown

When:

2013

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

Maija attended a grave-side ancestor worship ceremony at the grave of her father, joined by her birth family during a visit to Korea on October 20, 2013.

Where:

Korea

When:

October 20, 2013

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

Caption

During a grave-side ancestor worship ceremony for Maija’s biological father, several male family members bow in homage to their ancestor. Notice the food offerings at the grave sight.

Where:

Korea

When:

Unknown

Ownership:

Narrator’s photo

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