Saturday, October 09, 2004

US-Korea love-in on subway platform

Apparently my ass, fat though it be, looks perfectly Korean.

I know this because, every once in a while, a Korean will approach me from behind and start speaking to me (or my ass) in Korean, usually asking me directions.

It happened again today. I was on my way home from a very nice afternoon at the Olympic Park, having just spent two-and-a-half hours teaching French, when I was accosted by an old man who wanted to know if he was standing on the correct side of the Line 8 subway platform to go to Moran. I turned around... his eyes widened, and then he broke into a big grin and started speaking in Konglish: "Oh, hello! Eo-neu nara saram iyeyo? Nara? Country?" I told him I was American and that my mother was Korean: my usual race-card deflection tactic so I don't have to hear a lot of "Fuck America!" nonsense. It's harder to attack the foreign asshole once you know he's a bruvva, you see.

But this guy seemed completely guileless. He didn't appear to be drunk, and seemed genuinely happy to speak with me. He kept shaking my hand in both of his. It felt a little bit creepy, this sudden and inexplicable gladness to talk with an American. I ended up getting into a different car when the subway arrived. But as I reflected on the encounter, I began to feel guilty. He was a harmless old man, and his approach wasn't anything like the hooded looks and scowls I occasionally get from younger passengers. Maybe what bothered me most was how his loud Konglish was calling attention to us-- a selfish worry, in retrospect, since I'm in the spotlight 24/7 as a foreigner here. I'd like to apologize to the old man for having tried to escape him so quickly (and obviously), but it's too late now.

His hands were rough. A guy who actually worked for a living. He deserved better from me. The more I think about it, the more ashamed I feel.


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