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Ho Chang-hae, owner of the watch repair shop in the Gallery on Yongsan Garrison’s main post, shows the handcrafted clock of Rear Adm. Gary R. Jones, former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea.
Ho Chang-hae, owner of the watch repair shop in the Gallery on Yongsan Garrison’s main post, shows the handcrafted clock of Rear Adm. Gary R. Jones, former commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea. (Jeremy Kirk / S&S)

YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Ho Chang-hae’s conscience is clear now, even though his wallet is about $1,300 lighter.

It was a classic mix-up — an innocent error for the cherry-wood clock dropped off for repair in May at Ho’s repair shop in the Gallery on Yongsan’s main post. The clock was mistakenly sold to another customer.

The clock — which belongs to Rear Adm. Gary R. Jones, former U.S. Naval Forces Korea commander — was returned July 18.

Through a spokesman at his new post on Okinawa, Jones said he is very pleased to get the clock back and “deeply appreciates all efforts” for its return.

For Ho, it means a rest.

“I can sleep very well,” said Ho, who has run the watch-repair shop for 20 years.

A man at Osan Air Base who made the mistaken purchase was away for some time but saw posters for the clock, said Kim Ae-kyong, the Gallery manager. He gave the clock back to Ho through another person, who collected the reward money.

Efforts to contact the man who returned the clock have been unsuccessful. But he got two good deals from Ho’s shop.

It wasn’t any ordinary timepiece. Handcrafted by Jones’ father, it played Westminster Chimes. Its classic look — small wooden pillars that make it resemble the U.S. Treasury building — was a true one-of-a-kind, as Jones’ father only made unique pieces for family members.

Jones, who now is commander of Amphibious Group 1, Task Force 76 and Amphibious Forces Western Pacific, viewed the timepiece as a physical memory of his father, Talmadge Craig Jones, who died of cancer three years ago.

One of the chimes was broken, so the clock was dropped off at Ho’s shop. After it was fixed, it was placed on a shelf with other items for sale. The shopper spotted it, and a female employee mistakenly quoted the repair price — $20 — when asked how much it would cost for the clock.

She thought the man was the owner. He wasn’t. Jones was heartbroken, and Ho paid for numerous advertisements in newspapers and posted posters to help get the clock back.

As time passed, the reward money increased from $500 to $2,000. Ho said he settled with the man’s representative for $1,300, no questions asked.

The clock is still at the repair shop waiting to be picked up and returned to Jones, Kim said. It’s been turned around so no one mistakes it for an item for sale.

Ho said he usually checks identification cards before returning goods. With a long sigh and stare, Ho asserts he “never had a problem, trouble. This is the first one.”

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