ShareThis Page

Korean War bride telling story at East Franklin church

| Thursday, March 27, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Ock Soon Lee — who later became Pega Crimbchin through marriage — was an orphan in Korea, enduring slavery and surviving war before marrying an American soldier and making a new life in the Pittsburgh area.

Now, the 80-year-old woman's memoir, written by her daughter Katie Schell, has been published, and both mother and daughter will be speaking about Ock Soon's story at Walkchalk Salem Baptist Church in East Franklin on Sunday evening.

While Schell was growing up, her mother, who was illiterate and didn't have many friends, began sharing her story.

“When I was about 12, she started telling me about her life,” Schell said.

And about 40 years ago, Ock Soon recorded her story onto cassette tape to give to her daughter.

But it wasn't until two years ago, following the death of her father, Frank Crimbchin, that Schell decided to sit down and listen to the tapes so she could finally write the story.

“She grew up a slave, was sexually molested and beaten,” Schell said.

Ock Soon was living in Seoul in 1950 when the war began. Communists captured and later released her. She hid under a porch during the Second Battle of Seoul when U.S. General Douglas MacArthur sent troops in to recapture the city.

She survived the war that killed more than a million South Korean civilians.

“One of the most heartbreaking parts of her story was when she walked over 100 miles to escape the Chinese and North Korean soldiers,” Schell said. “Mothers would wrap their babies and lay them in the snow because they couldn't carry them anymore.”

Schell's father was a soldier stationed in Korea at that time. He and Ock Soon met and fell in love, but the two were at first prevented from marrying because it was against Army regulations. It was also against U.S. immigration law in the early 1950s for Koreans to move to the United States.

Eventually, Crimbchin was able to bring Ock Soon to America. She was one of the first 240 Korean War brides to come to the United States. The two settled in McKees Rocks in 1954 and later moved to Moon Township.

“And her journey continues,” Schell said of her mother, who visits area libraries, veterans organizations, schools and churches to share her story.

A portion of proceeds from the book, “Love Beyond Measure: Memoirs of a Korean War Bride,” go to support the nonprofit organization, Women of the Wells, which builds water wells in developing countries.

“It takes $1,800 to drill a well in Africa and Asia,” Schell said.

Her mother wanted to help support those projects because she had to carry water as a slave girl and knows how crucial fresh, clean water is to survival. So far, Ock Soon's story has funded three wells.

Schell notes in literature about her mother's story that the Korean War is often called the Forgotten War.

But, she said: “It is not the forgotten war. It is the war that is buried in the hearts and souls of those who fought there and the civilians who survived.”

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.