Many merchants took their wares to market on carts, bicycles, motorcycles, and trucks. But, if they did not have one of these modes of transportation, they would often take their merchandise to market by bus.

One day, our bus stopped to pick up passengers at a busy marketplace. An old man got on and started to tug and lift on a giant earthenware pot, trying to get it up into the bus. No one was helping him so Sterling got up from the back of the bus and went to the front to help the old man lift the crock.

Sterling did not have any sense of danger about helping the poor old man. The most likely product in the pot was food, probably Kimchee. Korean Kimchee is cabbage pickled with salt, red pepper, garlic, and other spices. Koreans put this into a giant pot and buried it underground for a season until it fermented a little and had a bite to it. They ate Kimchee with their rice every meal.

When Sterling got to the front and was just about to bend down to help, the old man lost his grip and the pot shattered in the door well. A liquid splashed out and splattered all over the front of the bus. Sterling reflexively jumped back to avoid the splash but some of it got onto his clothes. It was sulfuric acid and instantly burned holes in his clothes and started to burn his skin. The driver was blocked from being spattered because the old man was between him and the crock. The old man got the toxic battery acid all over him and started screaming in agony. He ran out of the bus and half a block down to where there was a giant open sewer ditch and jumped into the sewage water.

We looked on in horror as the poor old man writhed in pain, rolling around in the water. The bus driver just closed the bus door and drove off. He didn't get out to help. He didn't get out and find a phone to call for help. He didn't ask any of the passengers if they were alright. As the acid pealed paint, burned holes in the seats, and started instantly corroding the metal floorboards, the driver just drove off.

At the next stop, the driver got some water from a vendor and washed down the door well, flushing away whatever he could. He then got back in the driver's seat and continued driving on the bus route. Sterling and I got off at our stop and then the bus went on its merry way. We never found out any outcome or saw any news about that incident. The picture of that man screaming and running toward the ditch is seared into my mind. I will never forget that.

This is about the age Sterling was when the acid was splashed on him on the bus.  In this picture, Sterling is going on a missionary/adventure trip by bicycle for several days with Reverend Al Sneller.  But, that is another story. 


By Dr. Rodney T. Hard

My brother Sterling was in the seventh grade and I was in the sixth grade in Pusan, Korea at the time this happened. When we were not traveling with a parent in our car, we rode on buses to get to wherever we were going.

Kimchi is being put into an earthenware pot to be stored underground for the winter.   The Kimchi was then taken to market in the big pot to sell.  The pot full of battery acid in the story looked much like this one but was much bigger in size.

My brother and I also traveled a lot by train.  We went back and forth from our home in Pusan to boarding school in Taejon.  In the picture on the right, Sterling is standing in the doorway in the back of the train car after handing out Christian tracts.   You can see many people reading the handouts with the message of the good news of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Rodney T. Hard