Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Anything Goes Wednesday-- Fart One

Korea's got enough worries, but now, an additional one: people here are assuming that al Qaeda is targeting those who've stood with America. I think there's some merit to this. Koreans are worried. A recent Reuters dispatch says:

South Korea's acting president has ordered boosted security measures, saying the country is a major potential terrorism target because it planned to send more troops to Iraq soon.

There has been no known public threat to South Korea, where there are 37,000 U.S. troops based to deter North Korea, but acting President Goh Kun told security officials that all countries involved in Iraq needed to be wary.

"We need to be very seriously prepared," Goh stressed, his spokesman said by telephone on Wednesday.

Yes, I think caution is called for. But Korea isn't Spain or any other European country, nor is it America. Most Muslims can't blend in here. There aren't many Korean Muslims; most of the Arab/Persian Muslim population, to put it politely, stands out. Just about every non-East Asian race stands out here. So if al Qaeda is planning any shenanigans in South Korea, the hammer is going to fall on these people. Koreans aren't exactly shy about their own racism and xenophobia; unlike in America, there won't be extensive hand-wringing about racial (or religious) profiling. If anything happens here, no one will make any bones about watching the Arabs and Persians closely, as well as tracking East Asian (and other Asian) Muslims. They will all be marked people.

In the meantime, of course, the Spain Effect is likely to happen: should an attack occur (which I doubt), we yang-nom will be objects of resentment, at least in public demonstrations. I'm not too worried, though: during one of the heavily anti-American periods, I got around with no problem and didn't encounter any particularly resentful behavior. One dude at the gym would go on about how much he hated America, but that was about it. My being plump and not having a crewcut might be a saving grace at such times; I don't experience what our servicemen have to go through. So keep your thoughts for the soldiers who are more likely to endure petty and major slights.

And keep your fingers crossed that nothing will happen here. I don't say that selfishly; I genuinely like it in Seoul. Keep your fingers crossed for Korea's sake.

It's March 17th! Happy Saint Pat's, to the people back home!

Long ago, Koreans used to be called "The Irish of the Orient" for all the drinking and brawling. Maybe it's because I don't drink, but I haven't seen much brawling outside of the Chongno bar district (I used to live in a yogwan tucked inside a grungy alley by the Chongno YMCA Building back in '94-95), and I only rarely pop into Itaewon, where I've never stuck around late enough to see any "Fight Club" wannabe action.

I've seen the results of over-drinking, though. You haven't lived until you've watched a gorgeous woman in a leather miniskirt "making a ramyon flower" against an alley wall while her equally-drunk boyfriend pats her back sympathetically. The magical juxtaposition of female beauty and splattering puke is enough to activate even the dullest poet's muse. I feel a haiku coming on...

blooooooooooorrrrrrgh but wait, there's more--
raaaaaauuuuuuugh, oh shit, I see my lunch--
graaaaaaaaaaaggggghh, yup, there's breakfast.

Gotta go get a haircut. Maybe I'll deign to get them all cut. Back in a while.


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