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Pacific Stars and Stripes, August 4, 1953

Children Show War's Cost

Korean Waifs Hope for Peaceful Homes

By John Casserly


SEOUL, Aug. 4 (INS)-A little boy was sleeping on a sidewalk in Seoul today and there was no place to go.  He was one of the hundreds who nightly sleep wherever they fall-a shoeshine boy.  Somehow, the little fellow typified it all.  He was barelegged, dirty, weary, and without money.


MANY MEN have written man stories about this war, but mostly about the awfulness of men against men at war.  Of death, men wrote, of battles, of stalemated lines, even of the humor at the eve of battle.


The little guy with the shoeshine box has gone on almost alone-begging, stealing, fighting his brothers, laughing, crying.  There have been thousands of Korean orphans in this war and the world does not know the whole story, because few have seen their skinny legs and drawn cheeks.  They gather mostly in front of the main Army post-exchange in Seoul waiting for your son or brother, your boy friend or your husband, to grab at his pants or shirt and beg:


"SHOESHINE, SERGEANT!  Number 1 shoeshine.  You got to have a shoeshine.  You like shoeshine!"

They gather their military currency at the end of the day and huddle in a back alley and count it, waiting for friends and hoping they have done better.  And they rush to the black market streets, to men and women they have known for a long time and know well are waiting for them.  There, they are given an exchange in Korean hwan.  The little beggar of the streets then becomes a bargainer-a bargainer for life because there is no one but himself to protect him from being cheated.


HE KNOWS ALL the prices from the sole of a shoe to a new shirt or a hot bowl of rice.  He knows and no one dare cheat him because he will never return again.


Out into the gloomy, dark, and despairing city he wanders at night.  It is all of that for him because he has nothing to call his own but the brush and the polish and rag and box.  Only that.  "I am glad the war is over said the tiny beggar today.  Now they will have time for me.  I catch a home now.  Somebody maybe likes me and I be good houseboy."


It was early and the little youngster was still rubbing his eyes in sleep.  "Shoeshine, sergeant?" he pleaded.  "I give number 1 shoeshine."  That was the war in Seoul today-one of the biggest fights yet in Korea-on how to care for the many homeless after three years of family wreckage.





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