After crossing the Imjin River, we traveled by way of Seoul, Wonju and Kyungju to Busan, arriving on January 27, 1951. Busan was filled with refugees from areas to the north. It seemed as if everyone in the country was gathered there. Any accommodation fit for a person to live was already filled, and there was hardly room for us to sit down. Our only option was to go into the woods at night, keeping warm as best we could, and come out into the city during the day to look for food.
My hair, which had been kept short during my time in prison, had grown back My trousers had been mended by placing cotton from a sleeping quilt inside them, but they were threadbare. My clothes were permeated with oily grime, so much so that when it rained the raindrops were not absorbed into the cloth but simply rolled off. Almost nothing was left of the soles of my shoes, although I still had most of the upper part. I might as well have been walking barefooted. No matter how anyone looked at me, I was the lowest of the low, a beggar among beggars. There was no work to be had, and we had no money in our pockets. The only way we could eat was to beg for food as beggars.
Even when I was begging for food, I maintained my dignity. If I saw that someone was not going to give me anything, I would tell him in a loud voice, "Listen, you need to help people like us who are in difficulty if you expect to receive blessings in the future!" And the person would give us some food. We took the food we gathered this way to a flat area where we could sit down. Dozens of people like us ate together there. The people there had nothing and had to beg for food, but there was a warm friendship that flowed among us. "Look here," I heard someone shout, "How long has it been?" I turned to see who it was, and saw Dok Mun Eom, a friend from my days in Japan who had become my lifelong friend after being moved by the song that I sang. Today, he is one of Korea's most prominent architects, having designed the Sejong Cultural Center and the Lotte Hotel. He embraced me in my wretched clothes and started to take me to his home.
"Let's go," he said. *Let's go to my home."
He had married, and his family was living in a single room. To make room for me, he divided the room by hanging a quilt down the middle, and had his wife and two young children sleep on the other side.
"Now," he said, "tell me about what you have been doing. I always wondered where you might be and what you might be doing. We were close friends, but you have always been more than a friend to me. Did you know that I always held you in great respect?"
Up to this point, I had not candidly shared my heart with any of my friends. While I was in Japan, I went so far as to hide the fact that I often read the Bible. If someone came into the room when I was reading, I would quickly put the Bible away. In the home of Duk Mun Eom, I shared my story for the first time.
It took more than one night for me to tell him everything. I told him about my encounter with God, crossing the 38th parallel, starting a church and surviving the Heungnam Prison. It took three days. When I had finished, Duk Mun Eom stood up from where he was sitting, and performed a full ceremonial bow in front of me. "What are you doing?" I asked. I grabbed his hand to stop him, but it was no use. "From now, you are my great spiritual teacher," he said. "This bow is my greeting to you as my teacher, so please accept it."
He has been with me ever since as both my friend and my disciple. After leaving the room of Duk Mun Eom, I found a job on Pier 4 in Busan harbor that involved working only during the night. When I was paid, I would buy bean porridge at Cho-ryang Station and eat it. The hot porridge was sold with a rag wrapped around the container to keep it hot. When I bought the porridge, I would hold the container against my body for over an hour before eating it. This helped to warm up my body after I had been working in the cold all night.
About this time, I was able to find a place to stay in a shelter for laborers located in the Cho-ryang neighborhood. The room was so small that I couldn't lie down on the floor, even diagonally, without my feet pressing against the wall In that room, however, I sharpened a pencil and solemnly wrote the first draft of "Wolli Wonbon (Original Text of Principle)." The fact that I was financially destitute was of no importance. Even if a person lives in a garbage heap, there is nothing he cannot do, as long as he has the will Won Pil Kim, who had just turned 20, also did all sorts of jobs. When he worked in a restaurant, he would bring home scorched rice that couldn't be served to the customers, and we would eat it together. He had a gift for drawing, and he got a job with the U.S. military as a painter.
Eventually, we climbed up to Beom-net-gol in Beom-il Dong, and built a house. Because this area was near a cemetery, there was nothing nearby other than a rocky ravine. We had no land we could call our own, so we leveled a section of a steep slope and built a home there. We didn't even had a shovel, so we took a small shovel from someone's kitchen and returned it later before the owner realized it was missing. Won Pil Kim and I broke rocks, dug the earth, and carried up gravel. We mixed mud and straw to make bricks, which we stacked up to make the walls. We got some empty ration boxes from an American base, flattened them out, and used them as the roof. We lay down a sheet of black plastic for the floor.
Even huts are usually built better than this was. It was built against a boulder, so there was a piece of rock that stuck up in the middle of the room. The only possessions we had were a small desk placed behind that piece of rock, and Won Pil Kim's easel. When it rained, we had a spring inside our room. It was very romantic to listen to the sound of the water flowing beneath where we sat. In the morning, after sleeping in this unheated room that leaked rain and had water flowing under it, we would have runny noses. Still, we were happy to have even a small space where we could lie down and put our minds at ease. The surroundings were miserable, but we were filled with hope, because we were on a path progressing toward God's wil.
When Won Pil Kim would go to work at the American base, I would accompany him to the bottom of the hill. When he came home in the evening, I would go out to greet him. The remainder of my time I spent writing the Wolli Wonbon. Our room always had plenty of sharpened pencils, even when there was no rice in the rice jar. Won Pil Kim helped in many ways, both materially and spiritually, so that I could concentrate on writing. Even when he must have been tired after a full day's work, he would follow me around, looking for ways to help me. I was getting very little sleep, and sometimes I would fall asleep on the toilet. So he would follow me even to the toilet to make sure I was alright. That was not all. He would say, "I would like to contribute even a little to the book that you are writing," and so he started drawing portraits for American soldiers in order to earn money to keep me supplied with pencils. At the time, it was popular among American soldiers to have a portrait drawn of their wife or girlfriend before returning to America. Won Pil Kim would glue sheets of silk on wooden frames, paint the portraits and sell these for four dollars each.
I felt grateful for his dedication, so I would sit beside him when he painted and did all I could to help him. While he was away at his job on the American base, I would put the glue on the silk, cut the wood for the frames and put them together. Before he came home, I would wash his brushes and bought any paints that he might need. After coming home, he would take a 4B pencil and draw the portrait. At first, he was only drawing one or two. Soon, though, his work became well known among the soldiers and he was drawing 20 and 30 at a time. It got to where our home was filled with these portraits and we had no place to sleep at night.
As the workload increased, I started doing more than just helping on the sidelines. After Won Pil had drawn the outlines of the faces, I would color the lips and clothing. From the money that we earned together, we spent what we needed on needed on pencils and drawing materials, and spent the remainder on work for the church. It was important to record God's world in writing, but it was even more important to tell people about His will.