My maternal great great grandfather, my grandmother’s grandfather, is a figure shrouded in myth for me. He is said to have been over 6 feet tall. 6 척 장신 is the term my mother and grandmother use to describe him. So what is 6 척 장신? I had no clue when I heard the term. From the descriptions I heard, I gathered that it meant over 180 cm tall, which is around 6 feet, which was quite tall for a man in Korea in the 19th century. 6 ft tall was quite tall for a person even when I was a child.
I actually looked up what 척 is as I got curious writing this so click here to read a short digression on that topic.
It could be a family tall tale (that was a totally inadvertent pun since I still don’t get pun whatsoever) that he was that tall, but honestly, I believe it. My maternal grandmother who was born in 1915, was 163 cm tall (give a centimetre or two since one shrinks with age). That is very tall for a woman of that time. I heard that she was taller than my grandfather. Of course, as I write this, I had to verify. And no, she was not taller than my grandfather whom I had never seen. I was able to get a copy of their wedding photo and will write more on that in a different post.
Before I further digress, I want to go back to the topic of my great great grandfather. What do I know about him besides that he was considered a very tall man. Well, I really meant it when I wrote he was like a mythical figure.
To summarize (which I might or might not elaborate on my later posts):
- North Korean: Well, in those times, it was all just Korea. He just lived in a region which is now in North Korea.
- Landowner: He owned vast area of land where you could roll continuously for a day and not reach the end (yes, this was the literal description my grandmother gave me).
- Banker: He acted like a community bank. In those days, people didn’t necessarily have “money”. They owned livestock, field goods, perhaps some jewelry, and maybe very few had money. And none of these people had vaults or somewhere they could safely deposit their precious items. So my grandfather’s house acted like a bank vault. People would bring bags of rice and such and deposit them at my grandfather’s house, which had huge storage. They were then able to withdraw or deposit as they they needed. I have a feeling little more were withdrawn as supposed to deposited.
- Owner of local 양조장 (essentially a brewery): I heard this is one of the reason why he was so rich.