“His English was well pronounced. Hardly an accent. I knew he’d never gone to high school — probably not even middle school — or he wouldn’t be working here. He’d picked it up from the GI’s over the years. Intelligence radiated from his calm face. When I first arrived in Korea, I wondered why men such as this would settle for low positions. I learned later that after the Korean War, having work of any kind was a great accomplishment. Even cleaning up after rowdy young foreigners. At that time, the rowdy young foreigners were the only people with money. … Yim seemed lucid, calm, smart, sober. An excellent witness, except that I knew from experience that houseboys were so low on the social scale that nobody took their testimony seriously.”Here he sees a sign of Korea’s recovery in the surprising beauty of a local “business girl”:
“Over the last few months, more girls like Eun-hi had drifted into the GI villages. More girls who’d grown up in the twenty-some years since the end of the Korean War, when there was food to be had and inoculations from childhood diseases and shelter from the howling winter wind. Eun-hi was healthy. Not deformed by bowlegs or a pocked face or the hacking, coughing lungs of poverty.”
"So I’d lowered myself to a common thief. A Korean one, at that. ... Such things didn’t bother me. I was from East L.A. I’d been fighting my way up from the bottom all my life. Herbalist So had power. A lot more than I did. In certain areas, more than the Commander of 8th Army. He deserved respect. This little ceremony didn’t bother me any more than standing at attention in a military formation and saluting some potbellied general with stars on his shoulder.”There's humor amid the sociology, though. Here’s a look at Sueño’s colleague Ernie Bascom:
“The joint was in the brightly lit downtown district of Mukyo-dong. Outside, a hand-carved sign in elegant Chinese script told it all: The House of the Tiger Lady. A kisaeng house. Reserved for the rich. `This place sucks,’ Ernie said.”What are your favorite crime novels about the social after-effects of war?
© Peter Rozovsky 2013