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쓰레기 같은 학생, or, Why You Might Need Pepperspray

“Grabage-Like Student” is the title I’ve written in Korean. But a better translation is, “Asshole Student,” I suppose.

It’s a reference to the guy who threatened Jihyun today, when she took the city bus that passes by the front of campus. To make a long story short, she (very politely) asked him to stop cursing and complain to the bus driver about the change in route, if he was so annoyed. (After something like ten minutes of his cursing in the nastiest tone.)

It ended with him standing over her at the bus stop, his friend in tow, calling her the most despicable terms possible and trying to scare her — and succeeding. A six-foot-tall college boy, threatening a thin, short woman for not speaking to him in polite enough language.

And the best thing is, he’s a student at the university where I work, and where we live.

And where we have to live, because the uni doesn’t offer any support for housing of any kind except on-campus housing. In a slum. I’m sure the nuns and priests, when they go out dressed like clergy, don’t get harassed. But I’ve heard countless accounts of harassment by students, so I know this is not unusual.

What is unusual, though, is that it’s a student doing the harassing. Cabbies, drunks on the street, asshole shop owners… I’ve met them all. But this is the first time a student has started shit. (Well, aside from the Russian student I’m told tried to break into my office.)

So now, every time she goes out alone, Miss Jiwaku will have to wonder if today’s the day that she will run into him and, maybe, get punched in the face by a sociopath, or beaten in the back of the head, or threatened again. She will walk up to the bus stop always wondering, “Is that him?” or “Is he going to come up behind me?”

This is clearly unacceptable.

So we tracked down the bus that it happened on, and talked to the bus driver about getting footage. We went to the front desk of the main uni building, through which this student undoubtedly walked to get to the bus stop, and requested footage there, too. The uni front desk attendant and the bus driver were both cooperative, though it looks like the bus company may not let us see the footage. (They tend not to yield it unless the police cops or a lawyer make the request.)

But we’re also planning to spend some time out on campus tomorrow. If we can track this fucker down directly, it will be a step closer to dealing with the situation.

This kind of behavior is unacceptable, and we’re not going to stand for it. What we’re going to do, I’m not sure. So far, he hasn’t behaved quite badly enough for me to demand his expulsion. I can demand an apology, though, and I think we could probably threaten to sue him, as well. I don’t know if we could actually sue him, but we are considering it as a threat, so he knows he fucked up badly. I could also let him know, in not so many words, what the result will be if he ever tries this shit again with her, or with anyone when I hear about it. And of course, if he’s uncooperative, there’s always the Internet… I’m sure he’s also behaved like this towards other students, who would be happy to tell us his name, his major, and so on.

Also in the meantime, Miss Jiwaku’s assignment for tonight is to order several cannisters of pepper spray. A couple for her different bags, so she doesn’t need to swap them around, and one for me, since I lost mine. She’s also going to order a few for her girlfriends, who have been reporting frightening incidents by strange men more and more often lately. I told her I’d buy pepperspray for all, since nobody seems willing to take their own security seriously and buy it themselves. I think we’ll get a cannister for a friend of ours in Yeokgok, who is being stalked by a sociopath of her own. But that’s another story.

So, once again, if you’re living in a place like I am: buy yourself some pepperspray. And if you won’t get it for yourself, then get it for those in your life less well-trained to defend themselves, or are smaller. Hell, I’ll come out and say it: get them for the women you know, because it seems to me more and more women are getting targeted by strange men. (One of Miss Jiwaku’s friends was followed on a late night subway by a man who kept sitting across from her, following her to the next car when she moved, and sitting across from her again and again, even as she called her boyfriend to come and pick her up, so she wouldn’t get raped on the street. Another friend was sexually harassed — the kind of harassment that, for a less assertive or more drunk woman, would have ended in rape — by a man from work. So, yeah, her friends need pepperspray too, though, given that they never bought it themselves, who knows how vigilant they’ll be in carrying it.)

I won’t spend time ranting about how law enforcement is so lax in parts of Seoul and Korea more generally, because we all know that. I will say: you can take a step, right now, to help defend yourself better when you do finally encounter someone mentally ill, sociopathic, drunk, or just plain too much of an asshole to leave you alone.

I used to believe only people who swaggered around arrogantly experienced this kind of shit.

I was wrong. This is one case where the Boy Scout motto serves well: Be Prepared!

I’ll update this post with a link for a recommended brand of pepperspray when we’ve bought some.

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