Editor’s note: This rant and rave is an update to the first-page story Obama in the Ghetto.
Here we are heading into a new summer and as I walk into a local expat watering hole to attend a birthday party, the talk at the bar revolves around how last week’s perfectly pitched baseball game was marred by a bad call at first base for the last out of the game in the bottom of the ninth. I find that foreigners who come to South Korea to teach English (amongst other endeavors) and hang out tend to believe in the “we have the technology so we have to use it” aphorism. I didn’t bother with the instead of that: to see if someone saw a greater truth that maybe we and technology have turned the corner on and can’t see anymore. That perhaps there’s a more powerful perfection in the umpire blowing the call, but then admitting it with an earnest apology, and then the pitcher matching that with an effortless forgiveness. It was a graceful note played in the midweek at the center of the ring for everyone who is at least tapped into the WiBro matrix of communications to witness. In the two weeks leading up to that late night at the HBC came a curdling of reality for all of us (Korean and foreigner alike) to also witness—hard evidence falling into place that North Korea is responsible for the sinking of the South Korean naval vessel the Cheonan.
And so what next to do or at least talk about? It’s not that the Internet lifestyle wonks and cats wearing pants-without-front-pockets don’t really now care for local annihilation politics. For they rarely did and don’t pretend that this political crisis isn’t a local one because the DMZ is just 40+ miles north of Seoul. The foreigners around here don’t heed any of this too much because it distracts from the time and attention that they could be giving and getting themselves. You would have to be struck deaf not to again and again hear the creating of their self-sustained buzz. The pre-ejaculation on Facebook day dreams about pharmaceutical drugs and full-moon parties in Thailand. Okay, perhaps I need a new crowd or a change of address, yet of course there is something on the world stage that foreigners living in South Korea are hell-bent on paying attention to and that is (no need for a drum roll) The World Cup. This topic of conversation will include a beautiful word phrase made freakish in modern usage “Fair Play.” Fair Play as in understanding that imperfect perfect game in baseball? Ah no rubbish! Fair Play as in judicious retribution for the 46 families who murderously lost someone at sea? Nah! Can’t risk that. Snap. Of course: Fair Play on the football pitch.
Olé! Olé! Olé! Walk up and down the main drag of Haebangchon street and hear about the soccer, THE BEAUTIFUL GAME:
“If England can do anything at all in the first round I stand to make a proper penny. That’s right and with me earnings I can get my girl a new Asian boob job.”
And the reply, “Or just quit your job and get a new Asian girl with boobs.”
Finally walking into a place you’ll hear expats vamping themselves up by the thought of war then mocking someone who is not hip, “I don’t want people to die blah blah blah. Hey doesn’t that guy across the street look like Rush Limbaugh.
I find it daunting that as the world wide economy continues to shake, rattle and roll away from a recovery and as North Korea gets more extreme and plays with the stability of the peninsula, East Asia and the whole world that it’s possible the foreigners coming here to teach in South Korea are getting more feckless to the point of becoming self-fulfilling caricatures. Well, with the English language media I’ve been experiencing here we can certainly count on zany comedy to carry us to the brink of something. Exposés on the foreigners who are game-changers on the peninsula, and if you are not a game-changer yet, why not make a video about why you dig Korea and you could win a trip and get sent to Japan. My entry for that one would be called, “Over the hills and not far away communist soldiers, no, make that hungry soldiers are marching for the opening of the new Taco Bell that they heard about on the chat boards.”
Looking back at a last year’s Harper’s magazine there is a story of young Britains having “fellatio contests” on the street after the pub closes. Now I can dig British accents and am not put off nor think it is better that I don’t have one, but man if you traffic the foreigner bars around Seoul you’ll get the feeling that you are always meeting the ones who won or lost the fellatio contest there and have directly brought their open cavities over here to Asia. And of course the more polished English teachers here with their MA advanced degree in some sort of pedagogy of the remedial tend not to engage in any sort of banter leading to something controversial. In or outside the classroom amongst fellow teachers or with trusting students they will avoid zeroing in to blame someone for the act of war that the sinking of the Cheonan surely was. I mean when you get paid vacations at 8-16 weeks a year why open yourself or your students up to that? Better instead to give all your students blue-ribbon grades then go island hopping on the Aegean in Greece and in search for the Cave of the Apocalypse.
So connect the dots, and all this finds a real currency in the propaganda of North Korea which suggests that the foreigners who live down here in the South are indeed mongrolizing the whole Korean peninsula. And how many South Koreans actually and at a profound level believe this is true? I think quite a few! This makes a funny question and a funnier answer. How many times and over what can many South Koreans and the foreigners who also live here actually agree on something: That the North Korean regime is not at blame for the puzzle with defective pieces that the peninsula currently is. To do so for South Koreans would be bad for business as well to make them wink with a giggle on how preposterous the Korean racial purity myth is. To do so for foreigners would cause a cataclysmic psychic meltdown of having to decide to get political and take it more personally about a thug who needs power and will starve his people or continue on the rat wheel of self and be afraid to starve themselves off their power which is: getting lots of personal attention.
Now everyone seems awash in conspiracy theories. Expat bloggers; (aka virtual intellectuals) are of course sharp-shooting from their electronic perches and Korean experts (aka academics) indoctrinate just as mush as is good for the academy. Yet for me it’s beyond the beyonds the number of Korean students and their educators who are casting (and this means for sure enjoying) to blame America. Students and teachers alike of English, German, Chinese (of course) and even Japanese are getting real at ease with whatever conspiracy theory accruing the most hits on their favorite Internet search engines.
Anyhow my work is done here and I’m going back to the bar for some Gin and Pineapple. One more thing about FAIR PLAY— lets’ hope that we really do have the technology or really just the common sense to get all this right: in Baseball the perfection, in Soccer the beautiful, and in North Korea the humanity.
P.S. Hey, what’s the line from the Canadian singer from way back, “If I had a rocket launcher I’d make somebody pay!”