Wednesday, June 14, 2006

got an earful

Seoul-- the entire city-- was roaring this evening. The South Korean team beat Togo, 2-1. I was doing my Namsan walk from 10 to midnight, gallumphing past shops that were closing and restaurants that were still in full swing. Many restaurants had their TVs blaring louder than usual, and somewhere downtown, probably around City Hall, I can only assume the Powers That Be had set up enormous screens and speakers, because I could hear the commotion from that direction during much of my walk. The amount of screaming I heard convinced me that Korea had scored at least three goals against Togo, but I can only assume, since the final score was actually 2-1, that the screams were more of the "Shoooooot! Aw, DAMN!" variety.

I had taken one of the bus routes up Namsan. This one was steeper than the one passing by the National Theater. After I reached the top, I decided to take the stairs back down. I stopped at the wooden overlook that was built sometime last year, and took in the urban panorama that began with the Shilla hotel far down and to my right, and swept past Chongno, Namdaemun, and all the rest to my left. The noise from the City Hall region was stupendous-- quite the auditory feast.

When I walked past one shop whose large-screen TV had attracted a crowd, I asked one guy what the score was. "One to one," he said. By the time I got back to my dorm, I'd heard more screams, more chants of "Daehan Minguk!", and more firecrackers popping off. "2-1," I guessed, and this was confirmed by the dorm security guards, who were out in force, gathered around the lobby TV with a mess of carry-out food (and alcohol) on the table before them.

I ended up getting into an hour-long discussion with the crewcut-sporting dude who heads up campus security. The discussion was in Korean... and was about politics. We got onto the subject of politics when I made the mistake of mentioning that the soccer match was "only a game." Unfortunately, this led into a discussion about (a) nationalism, (b) the idea that Korea is a weak country, and (c) a host of other issues ranging from everything America is doing wrong in Iraq to Israel's adoption of Hitler's methods in its rush to exterminate the Palestinian people.

Not being able to speak Korean well enough to begin to articulate my own position, I have to admit I didn't hold up my side well. I hope I conveyed something of my centrism, but I don't even know whether it matters: the guy was half-drunk and probably won't remember much of our discussion tomorrow. In the meantime, I learned that he was my age, and that he used to be part of the Korean version of the Army Rangers (good thing he said that part in broken English, or I never would have understood).

I also got something of a history lesson from the guy about the Arab-Israeli War, and managed to get one good shot in: after he kept talking about how America needs to put away the past and deal with the Hamas government as a legitimate party, I asked him if he was willing to put away the past about Japan. This earned me a dark look, but at the end of our discussion, which remained fairly friendly, he shook my hand and said he couldn't stand the American government, but he loves the American people he's met. Perhaps alcohol makes everything forgivable (for some people). Thank God he's not an angry drunk. The world's got enough of those.

I did have to cut the guy off when he started trying to quote Noam Chomsky at me, though. That was too much.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You didn't watch the match?! *blink blink*

OK, I've got a question for Satan, but by the time you get to it it will probably no longer be timely (maybe you could bump me up in the Dark Lord's dayplanner?): Is the Dark Lord a footy fan and, if so, who is he rooting for in the World Cup? And if he's not a footy fan, why are the refs always grinning like they're possessed by legions of demons?

OK, so that's a few questions, but they're all related.