By DOUGLAS HYDE I SPENT an afternoon recently at the Maryknoll Sisters clinic for children in Pusan, in the Southernmost tip of Korea. What I saw there was an object lesson in the suffering which modern war brings to its innocent victims.
In particular, it showed me something of the misery which the Communists, who claim to be the friends of the common people, brought to the workers and peasants of the South when they launched their attack from the 38th Parallel.
The nuns have no hospital as yet; their clinic deals only with outpatients. But ainong these are children suffering from almost every known and unknown disease under the sun.
It will be recalled that it was into Pusan that the mass of the people of the whole country were driven by the invading Red forces. Many have now returned to their homes farther north, although scores of thousands of refugees still live under appalling conditons in the city.
Living in insanitary and overcrowded conditions and. in many cases. on the verge of starvation, too, the refugees are naturally ripe for the spread of disease.
The children in particular are suffering as a consequence. Last month the nuns dealt with more patients than ever before no fewer than 43,324 at the clinic, with another 13.011 visited in their homes.
More than half had tuberculosis. no matter what other disease they might be suffering from. Outside the clinic in an enormous queue mothers sat patiently with sick and, in some cases, dying, children on their knees.
Some who had been before to the nuns for treatment were in plaster casts. The tragedy was that after being attended to they would be taken back to the same housing conditions from which they had come. The nuns have over 800 "Lb. bone cases" in plaster casts at ffiis moment.
Other children had the dreaded tuberculous meningitis—the nuns had 90 such cases on their hands that day. Also among their patients were ones suffering from cholera, and worms. and flukes of every type—all "social" diseases.
One small boy with enormously bloated stomach, hard as iron, and with skeleton-thin legs, arms and face, was dying of malnutrition.
The majority had skin or scalp diseases, which are passed on from one to the other in the teeming areas from which they come.
The sisters are fighting a battle with sheer hunger, which is the root cause of so many of the ailments with which they have to deal, by distributing more than 500 lb. of dried milk daily and large numbers of vitamin tablets besides—contributed along with large quantities of medicines and all the latest drugs by Catholic War Relief Services of America.
"If we had more space and more helpers we could deal with vastly larger numbers," Sister Rose of Lima, one of the Maryknoll nuns told me. But she was able to tell me, too, how in just over three years they have had 7,300 baptisms there; hundreds of the children's parents are at this moment under instruction. One hundred and seventy-six were baptised at Easter.
The 'war babies'
Up at Inchon, where the United Nations Forces made their famous landing, Sister Philomena, of the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartre, showed me what her congregation is doing for those other child victims of the war—the orphans and unwanted "war babies." The latter thpy still find regularly left on their ddlorstep, often children with the fair hair of the Anglo-Saxon or the kinky head of the American Negro.
Sister Philomena, who was born in Northern Ireland, is the only English-speaking woman in this Frenchspeaking community. The Order has been in Korea since 1862 and was one of the first to appear on the scene.
In her care are over 400 children who would otherwise have died of starvation or would he running the streets as beggars today.
The Sisters of St. Paul, too, run an out-patients clinic for children. And again I heard the same story: the majority of those who come are suffering from. skin diseases and tuberculosis—both "social" and mai-nutritional diseases.
But the orphans there are lucky. In the past practically no provision was made in pagan Korea for homeless children. The orphanage as the charitable institution which we know in the West was practically unknown.
With various international organisations now contributing money for the rehabilitation of the country's war victims a new racket has sprung up—the orphanage racket.
Home less waifs
Anyone can start an orphanage who wishes and can run it as a commercial proposition. The numbers of children in the orphanage are inflated by the "proprietor" to claim food and clothes in excess of those required and which are then sold on the black market. The children arc used as cheap labour.
From the pagan's point of view there is little to be said against this The children are given a roof over their heads which they would not otherwise have and the proprietor, by a happy chance. is able to "get rich quick."
And even the children whom I saw in such orphanages were without any doubt better off than some of those who flocked on to the crowded train at every station when I "travelled Korean" to the South. They were homeless waifs, wild, coal-black and lousy.
I shall not quickly forget the small boy of six or seven years of age, dressed in filthy rags, who crawled under my railway carriage scat in search of treasure.
From the floor he picked up a small piece of raw dried fish which had already many times been trodden on, scooted like a hunted rabbit out over the tracks, then hid from the other boys whilst he ravenously ate it.
As Sister Rose, down in Pusan had wistfully observed : "If only we had more helpers. . . ."