Dr. Rodney T. Hard

Snake, anyone?  Or, perhaps water chestnuts?

Street vendor selling dried seaweed and dried squid.

Outdoor market place where we shopped for groceries and got our rice popped.

Yut Chang Sa (taffy candy vendor) cutting off a piece of taffy with a chisel and large scissors as the striking device.

Eating food with chopsticks at a street vendor's establishment.


By:  Dr. Rodney T. Hard

After the Korean War was over, many entrepreneurs trying to earn a meager living started out with next to nothing, as street vendors, with just a cart and a few things to sell. 

When I was just six years old, my mother would give me and my seven year old brother, Sterling, a big empty flour sack, a small bag of rice, and a few cents worth of “won” which was the Korean currency.  She sent us to the market place down the mountain to get the rice puffed.  We would find a vendor sitting on the ground along the street who had a little charcoal fire going with a pressure cooker system set up on the ground.  For a few won, he would puff our rice for us and put it in our flour sack.  We would carry that home and eat it as our breakfast cereal for the next few weeks.  

My favorite vendor was the Yut Chang Sa (taffy candy salesman) who had a cart he pushed through the neighborhoods collecting tin cans, bottles, wood, cardboard, scrap metal, and just about anything that could be re-used or recycled.  We could hear him coming from far off because of the giant scissors that he opened and closed repeatedly making a “clack, clack, clack” sound.  It was sort of like here in America when the ice cream man comes with the bell on his truck chiming.  

When we heard the Yut Chang Sa approaching, we would scramble for our stash of cans, bottles, and the like we had saved up for this eventuality.  We would take the stuff to the vendor and he would figure out how much taffy he was going to cut off for us from the big, inch thick slab on his cart.  

We happily ate the candy paying no mind to the probably unsanitary conditions in which the candy was made, to the flies that had landed repeatedly on the candy, or to the dust that had settled on the exposed slab all day as he roamed the streets.   He put the traded items in a basket under his cart and off he would go. 

In the cold of winter, I remember enjoying hot roasted chestnuts from the street vendors.  The roasted sweet potatoes were also really good and doubled as hand warmers in the freezing cold until they cooled down enough to eat.

Nothing was wasted.  After harvesting the silk from silk worms, the worms were sold to street vendors who roasted them for sale from their carts.  We ate roasted silkworms with salt like you would eat popcorn. 

Women, on the way to the market place to sell rice cakes, would often wake me up very early in the morning walking past our house with their cry, “chop sal duk, chop sal duk”, as they tried to sell their wares to neighborhood housewives who may want the rice cakes for their breakfast table.  

While it was still dark outside, I could hear the haunting cry from far away up the mountain.  The repeated cry got louder and louder as the vendor approached our house and then got more and more feint after they passed my window and continued down the mountain to market.  It took me a while to get back to sleep after that.