Seoul, South Korea

January 1997

As I waited for my overstuffed backpack to show up on the luggage carousel of Seoul's Kimpo International Airport (this was well before Incheon International was even a glimmer in some Korean slogan-maker’s eye), I scoped out the Customs lines where Koreans returning to their home country were getting the third degree and a complete search. I'm a little anal, and a lot protective of my personal stuffs, so I am always anxious about some scowling customs 아저씨 rifling my backpack. When my pack finally came through I put it on and, acting like I was overly exhausted, walked to the initial checkpoint, surrendered my passport, and tried to look as tired as possible. The angry-looking customs official slowly scrutinized me up and down one time, more tired than I perhaps, and simply said, "가." As if I were a child, or a dog, or a drunk. Just that one curtly uttered syllable.


Given the circumstances of my previous sudden departure from this place, I was surprised and more than a little bit relieved. I walked out, but my ears and brain were still buzzing from what was left unsaid beneath that brief imperative. It said, "I know why you're here, you. I know you brought your poison culture to bespoil our traditions, you're probably smuggling drugs, you'll work illegally selling us your mother tongue, try to take our women away with you, give us AIDS. You are 100% bad."



The Sanity Inspector said...

Oh, give the poor ajossi the benefit of the doubt. Maybe his wife had been screaming at him all week, or he was hungover, or some such.

White Rice said...

TouchÉ. Another reader made the exact same comment to me. Perhaps I was too harsh...