Dr. Rodney T. Hard

          Full Blown War Between Beggars and Gangsters

When I was about 8 years old, Sterling and I noticed that there were hundreds of beggars heading up the mountain above our house.  They moved hurriedly up the road past our house with frequent, furtive glances behind them.  They looked worried.  We found out why when, soon thereafter, there were several hundred hoodlums heading up the mountain past our house in hot pursuit of the beggars.

The beggars got to the high ground first and set up defensive positions. There was a massive, bloody fight that ensued.  Sterling and I watched in a mixture of horror and fascination as we saw the beggars roll rocks down on the attacking gangsters.  The beggars used their metal picks and the hoodlums fought with knives.  It was gruesome, and a lot of people got hurt. 

At dusk, they started coming down the mountain past our house.  Many wounded were being carried by their buddies, piggyback style.  We saw a lot of blood and a lot of horribly wounded fighters straggling down the mountain. 

We found out later through the grapevine that the beggars had been begging somewhat aggressively in the red light district of Won Uhl Dong next to our neighborhood.  The hoodlums that ran protection for the prostitution houses tried to run them off and a fight ensued.  This escalated into a full blown war of beggars vs. gangsters in all the neighborhoods of our area of the city.  It culminated in the grand melee’ on the mountain above our house where they could fight without interference from the police.

Interestingly enough, Sterling and I noticed that there were a lot of policemen gathered at the bottom of the mountain watching the fight, but none of them went up to break it up.

Well, my brother and I just looked at it as another adventure we could talk about at the dinner table to our dumbfounded parents who were just hearing about it for the first time.

The beggars picked up trash to recycle and put them into large baskets on their backs using tongs or large sharpened metal picks.

Young homeless Korean boys begging for food or money.

Looking up the mountain to where the fight took place.  We watched with binoculars from our roof tops (marked with and X).

Two beggars scavenge for trash in the drainage ditch.  Beggars moved about in groups of at least two or three for their own protection.  


By:  Dr. Rodney T. Hard

In post-war Korea, there were a lot of children left orphaned and a lot of families separated.  Many of the refugees that came south to the city of Pusan to escape the war ended up staying in Pusan after the war. People just lived to survive.  There were many shanty towns, tent cities, and homeless beggars.

This is the city that I came to in 1954 as a little four year old son of a Presbyterian missionary.  There were a lot of little kids begging in the streets every day.  They would swarm around us begging for money.  If you gave one some money, you would have twenty or thirty kids tugging at you within a minute.  What to do?  You could not feed them all.  As a child, it was hard to sort through the mixed emotions of wanting to help but not being able to.

My father and mother tried to help the orphanages.  There were many children orphaned by their parents dying in the war.  We often made trips with a car load of MPF (Multi-Purpose Food) in cases of #10 cans filled with a nutritious powdered blend of grains and protein to help supplement their meager diets.

On Christmas Eve, all of our family would sit around the dining room table and put together small packets of goodies and wrap them with paper and a bow.  The little packet contained an apple, some cookies and candy, and a Christian tract that told the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On Christmas day, after the traditional opening of presents and feasting, we would begin to answer the knocks on the outer gate.  We spent the next few hours giving out Christmas packets to beggars until we ran out.  Then we had to just shut the gate and ignore the repeated knocking on the door.

One Christmas, my older brother Sterling and I noticed that some of the beggars were the same beggars that had come to the door earlier.  They would get their goodies, change clothes with each other, and then come back again.  My father did not notice the deception but we kids realized what was going on and tried to put a stop to it. 

The older young men could get pretty aggressive is they thought they weren’t getting their fair share.  It got a little dicey a few times.

These teenage beggars and the young men in their twenties banded together for their own safety and welfare.  They lived in a tent and shack city down by the waterfront.  They built their shelters out of recycled trash.  Tin cans were scavenged and were flattened out to make shingles for makeshift roofs.

The beggars typically traveled in groups of at least two or three and carried large baskets on their backs to hold their collected cans, card board, bottles, paper, and any other scraps of material that could be sold for food or recycled.  Some had large tongs to pick up trash as depicted in the picture, but most used a tire-iron or a bent piece of metal rebar sharpened to a point to poke things and pick them up. These “L” shaped tools were also weapons of self defense for the beggars.

We often visited orphanages to help out any way we could.   These children were happy to get fresh apples to eat.