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The tiger hunters

19 4 0
Tiger hunters circa 1905. Courtesy of Robert Oechsle
By Robert Neff

According to an old Chinese saying, "The Korean hunts the tiger six months in the year and the tiger hunts the Korean the other six months." Robert Neff CollectionLess than a century ago, tigers and leopards prowled the Korean peninsula and ruled the hours of darkness. Their depredations in the desolate regions were so severe that porters and horse-handlers refused to travel at night ― even in fairly large groups. If they were compelled to travel at night (through the promises of more money or threats of violence), they did so with great caution, brandishing torches, striking gongs, and relying on superstitious beliefs.

Sometimes they kept their superstitious beliefs to themselves ― not out of fear of being ridiculed but as a form of self-preservation. In the early 1890s, one Western visitor experienced the unpleasantness of not being in the know.

While exploring outside Seoul's city walls, he noticed his porters and Korean traveling companions always managed to keep him at the very end of the traveling procession. He could not understand why they insisted on keeping him in the rear. Later, he discovered it was a common belief that tigers always stalked and attacked the last person in the line and,........

© The Korea Times