Friday, December 31, 1999

bad things

[Originally posted on January 19, 2023, at 7:45 a.m.]

I heard some not-so-nice things about my American coworker from my Korean coworker—things I'd never heard before. I knew my American coworker M was an over-talkative chap, but my Korean coworker, who has a bit of computer savvy, noted that M had done some suspicious things as our resident IT guy. He apparently configured our LAN in such a way that it was easy for him to spy on our computer activity. He also hacked open the closed files of an ex-employee—something he shouldn't have done. This revelation makes it hard for my boss to consider rehiring the guy.

I didn't know about any of this; I learned about it only yesterday. To be fair, I haven't heard M's side of the story, although it'd be awkward to ask him about it at this point. The things my Korean coworker mentioned could possibly have a completely innocent explanation, so I remain open to that possibility. At the same time, I heard this revelation and was left with a queasy feeling that included hints of betrayal. 

I recall two incidents. One happened when I was just a dumb college student traveling around Europe in early 1990. I was sitting on some steps in Rome, my backpack at my side as I flipped through a Frommer's guide when a kid approached. Friendly. Looked to be about ten. Talked to me constantly in Italian. Maintained eye contact. I belatedly noticed that, as he talked to me, his hands were traveling smoothly all over my backpack as he searched for something to steal. I shooed him away; nothing got taken. The other incident happened years later at the first hagweon I ever taught at (the one where I ended up suing my boss). A Korean colleague, an older man who was all cheesy smiles, loved calling me his sabunim (master, as in martial arts). I was creatively on fire back then, generating tons of material for my classes and placing my homemade worksheets into a fat, black binder. The binder would go into a drawer in the teachers' office. One day, it went missing (no locks), and I knew of only one person who was aware of my drawer: Mr. You're My Sabunim! The guy was a damn thief.

The moral of these stories is that underhanded people are pros at being friendly to your face while they do their under-the-table work. It might be wrong to judge M in this way since I haven't heard his side of the story, but after my Korean colleague told me what he'd seen of M's behavior, a lot of odd things about M suddenly clicked into place in my head. He often was a kiss-ass, especially to the boss. While he seemed complimentary about my cooking, the praise sometimes felt exaggerated, over-complimentary. And, boy, did he love to talk. In hindsight, it occurs to me that his gabbiness, his friendly demeanor, and his ass-kissing might have been a smoke screen.

And there's a chance that, if he hacked into all our computers, he might be able to read this post. IT guys can be dangerous in that way. Another thing my Korean coworker mentioned was that M offered to install some sort of Linux software on his computer. My coworker said no, and he asked a computer-nerd friend about why someone might want to install Linux on a computer. The friend said that such an installation would make it easier to spy on his activity. Curiouser and curiouser, right?

So while I'm feeling strange and a bit queasy, I'm wrestling with the idea that M could also be totally innocent. As things stand, though, even the boss is disturbed, and it's very unlikely that M will be rejoining our team. We're one man down.


John Mac said...

What would be a possible motivation for his alleged activities? Any idea what he stood to gain?

Kevin Kim said...

Search me. I'm still trying to process the revelations from my Korean coworker. It could be something as simple as "information is power." Find out stuff about us and use it against us later. I still have trouble believing M would be that underhanded, though. At the same time, my Korean coworker isn't the type to spin lies. What to think?