An elderly Korean man may have a story about a near riot experience from yesterday. Not the one that is circulating the Internet.
Yesterday I was boarding the subway, a Korean friend called me to wish me a happy birthday (he was wrong, early by one week). I was standing, as I often do on the subway, and talking on my cell. As I thanked my (very busy) buddy for taking the time to call, an elderly Korean man softly tapped me on my knee about two or three times and signaled for me to be quiet. I'm not surprised about Korean men, whether sober or drunk, initiating contact, so I just ignored him, walking down to the other part of the subway car--and continuing the conversation. As I noted to my buddy on the phone, I wasn't the only one talking on a cell phone.
This morning, I saw the video of a black man going off and getting into a physical altercation with an elderly Korean man. People often say that black people all look alike, but I guess in this case that I don't need an alibi.
There have been many comments about it. Of course, we don't know yet exactly what happened off camera leading up to moment someone started recording, but I guess things were getting hot enough that someone figured it was worth recording.
One blogger did the "I don't condone it, but I can understand it" analysis:
"And as a black man in Korea who ain't even that black, skintone wise, and considering all the SHIT *I* get, I really, really doubt the man just got up for no reason and started going buck wild."
This is the "Reasonable Like Me" Standard that people often mistakenly refer to people who suddenly show up in the news. "Hey, I'm reasonable, I get bothered, I can understand why that guy would be so upset." That's fine, except that there are some real sociopaths, liars, criminals, abusive and violent people. So many people do stupid things I would never do, so it is difficult to see why such projection makes sense.
* * *
Hanging out with some friends Saturday night in Hongdae, some white dudes were getting drunk at the table nearby. As the group prepared to leave, the drunkest guy who took off his shirt a few times then stuck his fingers in his mouth, pushing deeply, until he successfully threw up on the floor. It wasn't a case of "Oh, my goodness, I think I'm going to regurgitate." It was more like...well, I don't know what he was thinking, but he clearly had time to walk, perhaps even crawl to the bathroom, before throwing up in the toilet. He had to force himself to throw up on the floor under his table.
Everyone at our table--about 12 of us--was disgusted. Throwing up, as drunk people sometimes do is one thing. Taking the time to force yourself to throw up on the floor as you are leaving? It clearly ruined a fun night for one of the Korean guys at the table. I would guess he is in his late 40s or early 50s. He may one day have such an altercation with a non-Korean, as happened on the bus.
He was guessing the guys are GIs, that they look down on Korea and Koreans, and other mind-reading. After that, he just could not have a good time.
* * *
By the way, the elderly Korean man in the video does look a lot like a Korean man who, about six months ago, was shouting at me and a platonic Korean female friend in Anyang. We had finished dinner and were saying good-bye when the Korean guy came up, staring like I had stolen something of his, then began cursing at us in Korean. Not the first time that kind of thing has happened to me, by the way, so I can understand what the blogger was complaining about. Quite a while ago I did develop the ability to ignore the rantings of crazies, drunks, angry people, both here and back home in America.
In Anyang that night, my friend and I had talked earlier about drunk and crazy people getting into fights, so the old Korean guy was a caricature of what we had been discussing earlier. She pleaded with me to just ignore him, that he clearly was an idiot.
I just looked at him and smiled, then walked with my friend to a police car that just happened to be parked nearby. The old guy followed up, still cussing up a storm.
The cop got out of the car, he listened to my friend's explanation, then listened for about 5 seconds of the older Korean guy cussing and complaining. The cop then opened his own can of whup ass and hauled the older guy into the police station. I must say, after seeing Saturday's video, that the cop was shouting like he was an angry black man on the bus.