How Would You Feel?

I was walking down the street last night after having watched a movie, and I wanted to find a taxi. Of course, where I got to the main street, a number of young couples were waiting, so I decided to walk a few blocks down and nab a taxi before it hit the busy spot.

As I was walking, someone grabbed me on the arm. I turned to see who it was, thinking it might be a friend or acquaintance, but not, it was a total stranger. A Korean ajeoshi — a middle aged man. I looked at him and said, in a slightly annoyed tone, “왜?” He just looked at me, straight in the face, with a disdainful expression, and then began to walk away.

I called out after him again, “왜?” and then followed up with a, “What the hell?”

I am beginning to develop, well, I wouldn’t call it an attitude problem, because I think my attitude is just fine. It’s more like, my intolerance for ignorant, rude bullshit is beginning to have a hair-trigger. And the people who set it off most are these older men who seem to think they can do anything they please.

It’s not all ajeoshis, mind you. Lots of the fellows are polite as anything, helpful and nice. But there is a certain fraction of these guys who seem incapable of imagining what it’d be like if someone else was grabbing them, butting in front of them in line, swearing at them, and so on.

So I think from now on, when I meet one of these people, I am going to help them expand their imaginations. When they butt in front of me in line, I’ll show them what it feels like. When they cuss at me, I’ll cuss right back. When they grab my arm for no reason but whim, I’ll grab their arm and ask whether it feels nice.

Probably won’t do any good, but I am sick of older men thinking they are God’s gift to the world and that their random ignorant whim is law.

5 thoughts on “How Would You Feel?

  1. While I agree with your assesment of Korean men’s attitudes, even worse are the ajumma’s.

    Or as I read once before, “the iron elbowed Ajumma’s” sums up their mentality. If they can’t get in then let the elbows fly.

    Often I enjoy and bitch at the Ajumma’s at Lotte Marts and other various ‘marts’ for their no holds barred approach to shopping and cart etiqutte!

    I usually get a cart rammed into my backside as an indicator that I should move or get out of the way, so now I enjoy back kicking the cart into them. But then that starts a whole world of hurt, when they start yelling and acting out in the middle of a department store.

  2. You know, I don’t seem to have much trouble from ajummas. I don’t know why. Lime, my girlfriend, has a theory that they like me because I have a gut that reminds them of their husbands’ gut; that explains their acceptance of me at the swimming pool, I suppose, but even the least libidinous ajumma seems to take a liking to me. One time on a boat south of Mokpo I even had a halmeoni (a granny) in flourescent green hanbok trying to get me to bbong-jjak dance with her. So I think I must have some ajumma-charming magic power or something.

    Or maybe Lime’s right and it’s just my “glamour”.

  3. What you mention above is, I think, the reason John told me that I wouldn’t be able to fit in happily with the Koreans.He acknowledges that it is definitely one of the resons he can’t stay for long in Korea. Poor guy, he has been having to deal with all this lately, what with the KEXIm work and all. Sometimes when I read your rants, they sound so much like his that I laugh. Or when he is ranting about ‘these Koreans and their arrogantly ethnocentric viewpoints’ , I laugh and mention that you said something similar.

    So did you get my mail? And were the comments any help?

  4. Ritu,

    Yeah, I could tell that about John within about a day of meeting him (generous estimate, his speaking to me in such polite Korean on first meeting threw me off of course). I imagine he’s having a hell of a time working with KEXIM. He and I would likely have a lot in common to rant about, though I suppose our experiences are rather different. Then again, it doesn’t surprise me. In fact, I was kind of describing John to my friend Myoung Jae, another “kyopo” (foreign Korean) and Myoung got it pretty quickly. Koreans who grow up abroad seem to get more quickly frustrated and annoyed than anyone, actually, and more vocal about it as well. I think.

    Anyway, yeah, I hope John, well, survives without going postal. I am sure he can. Somehow.

    I did get your email, but I’m sure you;ve seen my reply email by now so I won’t say more than that your comments were a big aid; you and Marvin did me a big favour!


  5. Oh, and Ritu, reading your comments throughout the (now half-rewritten) piece, they’re excellent. One note: yes, you are that scary, and it’s in a good way… Really!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *