Friday, April 6, 2018

The Chiggie and the "A" Frame

Photo from the Doug Price Collection

C. 1951. Vicinity of Pusan, South Korea. Do not underestimate this man. He is South Korean, ostensibly a civilian, and probably "friendly" to the American forces seeking to defend his country at the time from the invading North Korean Peoples Army.  Having said that, there's some chance that this man is an irregular insurgent, local by birth but clandestinely sympathetic to the NKPA. We have only conjecture to guide us.

He is too old to serve in the ROK (Republic of Korea) army.  But he is not too old to work. He wears an A-frame, an ingenious device that allows him to carry enormous loads on his back.  Given the economic disruption caused by the Korean War, his best opportunity to make a living is to offer his labor to American forces in exchange for food rations or, occasionally, a modest cash stipend.

American troops at the time, like Private Philip Hughes, affectionately referred to such laborers as "chiggies." If you measure work by units of effort per unit of caloric intake, this old man was by far more metabolically efficient than his American benefactors. This was most evident when he scaled - by foot - one of Korea's many hills, which the Americans were so often bound to do if they wished to hold ground.

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