Mr. Sung's blunder: he fled Asia's wars by going to El Salvador
San Miguel, El Salvador — Kwan Pack Sung has fled two revolutions and one war. He arrived in El Salvador 32 years ago and expected to settle in permanently as the owner of a Chinese restaurant in a backwater of Latin America.
''We couldn't have imagined this in our worst dreams,'' he says of the war here.
In 1937 Sung left his native China to escape the war with Japan.
''I made the mistake of going to Vietnam.'' he says, ''And at the end of World War II we were caught between the French and the Viet Minh guerrillas.''
By 1947 the conflict between Ho Chi Minh's guerrillas and the French had escalated. Sung's family found itself living under two increasingly hostile forces.
''At the end we would go through guerrilla checkpoints, then French, and finally through guerrilla checkpoints again. When the guerrillas put a bomb in the building where I worked, we decided it was time to leave.''
Sung and his family went back to China. They arrived just in time for the revolution.
''In 1949 we left again for Vietnam and then El Salvador,'' Sung says. ''Finally we thought we had found a place to settle and raise a family.''
Sung opened The China House restaurant with his wife. They raised their five children here. Four of his children now live in San Francisco and one continues to work in the restaurant.
Battle-weary, Sung says that despite the war he will not move again.
During a recent attack on San Miguel by the guerrillas, Sung and his family spent the night lying on the floor of their home.
''It brought back many memories,'' he says. ''But this revolution is not like the one in China or Vietnam. It is smaller and the guerrillas are not in a position to topple the government.''
Sung concedes that the Viet Minh first began battling the French troops with sharpened bamboo sticks.
''Obviously firepower doesn't determine the outcome of a revolution,'' he says, ''it is commitment, but I still don't think the guerrillas can win.''
Sung says that the guerrillas in El Salvador are similar to those in China and Vietnam in their propaganda tactics.
''The communist groups in China and Vietnam appealed to the people as nationalists, just as they do here. They become communists later.''
As troop transports rumble past his restaurant and helicopters descend a few hundred yards away, Sung patiently studies an English grammar book.
''When the tourists come back,'' he says, ''I want to be able to say good morning to them in English.''