Beggar Boys, Delinquent Girls: Protestant Humanitarianism in 1950s Cold War South Korea

Visiting Scholar Talks

Apr 28, 2023 | 11:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Common Room (#136), 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge, MA,


Paul S. Cha | Assistant Professor of Korean Studies, School of Modern Languages and Cultures, the University of Hong Kong; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2022-23


Carter Eckert | Yoon Se Young Professor of Korean History, Harvard University

Seating is limited. Masks are required for all in-person audience members.

Co-sponsored with the Korea Institute

This talk examines the gendered logic and contradictions in faith-based aid work in South Korea by contrasting programs for “beggar boys,” “delinquent girls,” and widows. The Korean War precipitated a humanitarian crisis in South Korea, and Protestant organizations stood on the forefront in providing emergency relief and rehabilitation aid. They were particularly concerned about the plight of orphaned children and widows. Faith-based aid organizations in South Korea believed that urban centers were dangerous for boys. Often depicted as roaming city streets in gangs, boys needed to be isolated and relocated to the countryside. Only then could they be rehabilitated and, one day, become wholesome heads of families. In contrast, programs for delinquent girls and widows were predominantly in cities. This was because these women were supposedly alone. The assumption was they would never (re)marry and needed to be financially self-sufficient. They needed to work, and “suitable” jobs were in urban centers