Canterbury's People: Veronica Kim grew up in South Korea during the years of Japanese occupation. Her husband migrated to Australia and she joined him with their two sons in 1978. Now, in her retirement, Veronica has finally been able to pursue one of her passions in life – singing!
Childhood in Korea
Kim Young Soon, known as Veronica Kim, was born in Korea in 1933. Her father worked for the City Hall looking after the materials and supplies used by the local government staff. He later went on to establish a business selling cars.
Veronica recalls that her mother's life was limited by the mores and expectations of women at the time, which were unquestioned obedience and respect for the husband. She spent her days looking after her house and family.
Veronica attended primary school at the age of seven. At this stage, Korea was still under Japanese occupation. Discipline at school was strict and communication in the Japanese language was mandatory.
After 1945, these conditions changed with the withdrawal of the Japanese from Korea and Veronica recalls enjoying her experience of secondary school at the Inchen Women's College. She excelled at sports and reached national competition level in volleyball. She also did well in her academic subjects and through her involvement in the local church choir she developed her interest and skill in singing.
Veronica graduated from high school in 1952 at the age of 19. She dreamed of going to university to study singing when she left school, but sadly this did not happen. At around that time her father's business failed and her younger sister died. Veronica went to work as a primary school teacher. She loved teaching and put a lot of effort into preparing lessons and marking the assignments of her 120 students.
The Korean War
In 1953, during the Korean War, Veronica and her family fled Inchen City and stayed with relatives in the country. On their return the family found their house completely destroyed. Life seemed very bleak at that time, but soon the family re-established themselves and Veronica continued to work as a teacher until she married in 1956.
Veronica's husband was a Naval serviceman with the Korean Navy. For a number of years after the Korean War, he continued to serve in the Korean Navy's Information Division, collecting intelligence information.
The Kims settled down to a quiet life in Inchen City where they had three children. The children went to school and there they experienced far more encouragement and freedom than Veronica did. Similar to other housewives in the 1960s, Veronica led a very different life to her mother. Her husband earned enough to employ a maid to do all the housework so that Veronica could devote her time to her children and their happiness and education.
Migration to Australia
Despite their comfortable situation in life, in the late 1970s Veronica's husband began to investigate the possibility of migrating to Australia in order to increase his own career opportunities and those of his children. In 1978, while on a visit to some Korean friends in Sydney, Mr Kim found a job as a Boiler Attendant with Good Year Pty Ltd. He upgraded his qualifications at TAFE and applied for his family to migrate to Australia under the skilled migration program.
"We moved to Australia in 1978. My eldest son was doing his National Service with the Korean Army at the time so he could not travel with us to Australia. I left Korea crying and cried all the way to Sydney with my two sons."
This sadness was mixed with an ever- increasing happiness at the prospect of being reunited with her husband. The day they flew into Sydney Mr Kim took them on a long tour of all the famous sites in Sydney. They visited the Opera House and the Botanic Gardens and Veronica was amazed by the beauty of the city and the kindness of the people they met.
Settling into a new country – children
Veronica's first concern on arriving in Australia was to settle her children in their various places of education. Their success is a mark of how well the family has settled into their new home. Her youngest son was in high school at the time. After attending an intensive language high school, he settled quickly into classes at Leichhardt High. He did well, went on to university and now runs his own business.
Her second son had just completed high school in Korea. Through his choral activities there he had developed considerable skill as a singer and applied to study at the Conservatorium. After a number of years of hard work he graduated from the Conservatorium and took up a position with the Australian Opera.
Her eldest son came to Australia five years after the rest of the family when he finished his National Service. He found it difficult to find work in the area he had trained in – computer programming. He eventually found a job with an offset printing outfit, undertook health and safety training and is now a trainer with the organisation. All her boys have established their lives in Australia with a healthy network of colleagues in their various fields and strong friendships with Australians and Koreans alike.
Settling into a new country – parents
Veronica initially found it very difficult to feel at home in Australia. She found that people here, although very kind, were more reserved than in Korea. Her lack of English made it difficult to make new friends but this changed when she started work with the Estee Lauder factory in Camperdown. Here, through her everyday routine, she quickly learned conversational English and made many friends. Veronica worked at the factory for 17 years, retiring when the factory relocated to Rosebery.
Veronica and her husband bought their current home in Canterbury in the early 1980s. The pretty garden attached to the house was one of the attractions for the Kims. While Veronica is a good garden planner, Mr Kim has done most of the new planting in the garden. They now have a garden full of trees that normally grow in gardens in Korea – including mangos, almonds, ginkos and persimmons – and vegetables that Veronica uses in her cooking.
When they first came to live in Canterbury, Veronica could not find any Korean food items and condiments in the local shops. Even the Asian vegetables she needed for meals had to be bought at larger produce markets at Flemington. This has changed over the years and for a long time the shopping precinct on Canterbury Road, Canterbury, had a number of Asian grocery shops and other outlets. More recently, with the development of the Beamish Street shopping precinct at Campsie, this local shopping area has gone into decline.
Over the 17 or so years the Kims have lived in the area, they established ties of friendship and become involved in the community both through their daily routine and through local Korean organisations. Having raised her sons, Veronica can now follow her life passion-singing through a choir she attends at the Women's Place at Lakemba.
Veronica feels that she and her family are now truly at home in Australia, especially in Canterbury, because they have achieved so much whilst living here.