Tuesday, May 22, 2007

12 Angry Men

We were walking along the side of the major road through our area yesterday after lunch when the crowd suddenly parted to reveal a fist-fight in full progress outside one of the shops. Other pedestrians did their best to step around the mêlée and it didn't seem an opportune time to pull out my camera and record the proceedings. As we were about to cross the road by going through an underpass I thought I might take a shot from the other side, but when we got there it had thankfully dissipated.

On her way back from Namhae in afternoon, Korean Mother saw two men fighting in the bus station. This time it wasn't just fists that were flying, but feet as well. This is, presumably, the downside of the prevalence of Taekwondo in Korean society and military training.

A friend of ours popped into a shop and left her car blocking an entrance for a couple of minutes - certainly not a well thought through decision. Sure enough, someone came along and found their passageway blocked. The result, when she tried to leave he blocked her car and refused to let her go. Since apologising didn't work and he was clearly so angry that he was prepared to continue for a very long time the police eventually had to be called - much to his disbelief and rage. The police had to physically restrain him while she drove away.

Recently there was an accident on the road right by our apartment. It wasn't a particularly bad one but there was some damage to one of the cars, though not the other as far as we could tell. The drivers argued on the road for an hour, occasionally breaking off presumably to call 'their people' before resuming the debate. We couldn't help but keep an eye on the unfolding drama as it began to take on an almost surreal quality. Eventually friends and family from both sides turned up and someone sensibly decided to call the police before a riot broke out. The police spent another hour at the accident scene, largely keeping the two drivers and their friends apart, though they tried to maintain the shouting match over the policemen's heads.

For six months here everyone seemed reasonably calm, if prone to a little Korean drama on occasions, but suddenly it seems as though there are arguments and fights breaking out left, right and centre. I've wondered whether it was just because I wasn't paying attention before but that isn't it; things like this you notice even if you're fresh off the plane. So I've come up with a theory - I think it might be the hot weather. In the last couple of weeks it's become hot - but more than that - oppressively humid. Certainly
I'm beginning to notice the near constant sounds of car horns angrily competing for attention these days because we have the window wide open all the time, but it doesn't really account for everything else. So I'm wondering if the weather is pushing Koreans over the edge with irritability. On the other hand, maybe it is just coincidence, but then as they say, there have been a lot of coincidences lately.

Maybe they call this the Land of the Morning Calm because it's only in the afternoon that the fists start flying.


Mosher said...

Some mad Jordanian kicked me up the arse the other day as I was walking to the bus depot for my ride to Israel. He was yelling something about "hate Bush" but other than that it was all Arabic so I don't think he kind of grasped that I yelled back "I'm English, not American - *I* hate Bush".


One madman in a country of otherwise pretty nice people.

Anonymous said...

I think it is not the weather, it is kimchi and other "hot" Korean food..

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