But the devout Methodists may have revealed their hopes for their own family nine years later, when they named their American-born son.
One of nine brothers and sisters, it was Moses Lee who would fight for the liberation of his parents' homeland, and who, in more than 20 years of military service, would help distinguish the Lee name in the family's new home.
"People from Kaesong were known for their courage," said Moses Lee Jr. "There was a famous bridge there, and the women of the village would jump off of that rather than be raped by the Japanese soldiers. That's the kind of place my father's family was from."
Moses Lee was born in Sprecklesville, Maui, and attended Leilehua High School on O'ahu. At 17, he earned his wings as a pilot and joined the National Guard.
Lee had wanted to be a fighter pilot in the Air Force, then called the U.S. Army Air Corps. But events in Asia and the Pacific would require that he contribute other skills.
In Hawai'i, a Korean minister with ties to the Korean resistance movement had exhorted male members of his congregation to help in the fight. Hak Choo Lee was too old to join, but Moses, then 21, was more than willing to take up the struggle on behalf of a country he had never seen.
Lee left Hawai'i for Shanghai, China, in 1933 to join guerrilla troops under Kim Koo, president of the Korean provisional government in exile.
After a crash course in Japanese and Chinese, Lee was commissioned as an officer in the Chinese army under Gen. Chiang Kai-shek. He spent the next three years in Hunan, studying at a military academy and trying to stay alive through a series of real-life missions.
A fighter by nature and experience he once volunteered to sneak into Korea to assassinate the Japanese governor Lee was persuaded by Kim to use his language skills to translate pro-Korean propaganda for distribution to the West. He did that for two years before malaria and malnutrition finally forced him home.
He recovered quickly and promptly joined the Air Corps. Though his age and poor sight excluded him from serving as a pilot, Lee was able to serve for 22 years as a paratrooper, translator and intelligence officer. He provided survival training to the original 12 U.S. astronauts.
Much of Lee's intelligence work was classified, and until his death in 1997 from complications of a stroke, he was loathe to discuss his intelligence activities for fear of reprisal against his family.
"He was small in stature, but he was fearless," said Moses Jr., who can recite a half-dozen anecdotes that end with his father correcting some injustice with a solid punch. Still, the elder Lee never raised a hand to his family, and as he grew older he and his wife, Elaine, enjoyed active involvement with the Grace Bible Church.
"He was really talkative, and he had a great memory for people, places and names. At church, he used to direct parking and everybody knew him as General Lee," his son said.
While he was away on missions, it was Elaine who raised the three children Melanie (Aniya), Sandra (Thompson) and Moses Jr. and cared for other family members.
Elaine Lee's father, Chang Kun Yu, came to Hawai'i from a village near Seoul; her mother, Hanna Choi Yu, was a picture bride from the same village.
Elaine Lee learned western etiquette while working for a Hawai'i judge and his wife. She shared those lessons with her own children in a home where only English was spoken.
The family lived at Wheeler Air Force Base and in Wahiawa before moving in 1957 to Northern California, where Moses Lee was stationed at Hamilton Air Force Base and Melanie attended St. Luke's School of Nursing.
They returned four years later. Moses Jr., the only one of the immediate family who still lives in Hawai'i, finished high school while working at Bigway Supermarket.
"In Novato (Calif.), I was the only Oriental," he said. "I was unique and I was with the 'in' group. In Hawai'i, I was just another face in the crowd, which was good and bad."
Moses Jr. married Beverly Arter right after high school, and the couple had two children: Darla (Nelson) and Carrie (Palomares). After a short stint at a print shop, Moses Jr. began working at Pearl Harbor, where he held numerous positions, from machinist to project manager. He retired in 1997 shortly after a kidney transplant.
He and his second wife, Gail, an operations manager for Yellow Freight, have been married for 25 years and live in Mililani.
Elaine Lee lives with her daughter Melanie in Sacramento, Calif., where Sandra also lives.
Their lives are ordinary, for the most part. It is the sort of peaceful existence Moses Lee fought for in his early years, something he came to enjoy before his death.
"Dad was very military, and when he committed to something he did it 100 percent," Melanie said. "He really believed that what he was doing would help the children of tomorrow." CHOI FAMILY>>
|THE TALE OF FIVE FAMILIES: Moon | Kim | Woo | Lee | Choi
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