There's yet another commotion outside our apartment and for a while I just ignore it because I'm busy, but finally it's sufficiently sustained that curiosity gets the better of me and I pull back the window to see what's going on. But annoyingly this time whatever everyone outside on the street has stopped to stare at is apparently occurring somewhere off to the side of our building. But there's certainly a lot of angry shouting.
So I change out of my shorts - it's too hot in the apartment to wear anything else, put on a t-shirt, grab my camera and start my investigation by trying to see out of the windows down our corridor which enjoy a limited view of the area behind our building. But while the windows could be opened, the metal gauze insect blinds beyond them turned out not to be blinds at all but rather permanent fixtures. Handy to know if there's a fire. I can vaguely see a group of people on the street but that's all, so I head outside to discover yet another fight unfolding. This is a particularly interesting one because while there appear to be two main agitators there are about twenty other people in various states of spectating and participating.
For reasons which are not clear even to myself, I decide to try and film the unfolding events. It is at least a wiser choice than attempting to take a photo and risking the flash going off even if I'm certain I've disabled it. The fact is that when you're a foreigner there's only so much you can do to try and appear inconspicuous, which is a sad fact of life when you're trying to quietly record life in Korea. Some people around the edge of the fight started to look in my direction so I tried to throw them off by wandering in and out of my building while experimenting with various methods of trying to conceal my shiny silver camera. I was somewhat emboldened by the arrival of a police car, but the two officers which emerged appeared seriously outnumbered for some time and I started to wonder at what point a fight becomes a riot. I'm mindful of the fact that the last riot that broke out where I come from started over some minor police arrest in similar circumstances and ended in a night of petrol bombing and attempted murders which reached within half-a-mile of where I lived. Things here looked similarly ugly for a little while.
I can't quite figure out the police in Korea. Considering the political history I wouldn't have been surprised if the local law enforcement turned out to be a little heavy handed, but in fact if anything the opposite has largely proven to be my experience. Perhaps history has in fact pushed them the other way. So the police cut rather affable figures amidst the explosion of tempers and arms, and if there were subtitles they would have said, in some throwback to a British model of policing long since gone "Now then sir, please stop trying to throw punches at him".
About ten minutes later the fight dissipated, but I'd long since outstayed my curiosity value and headed back to the apartment. The experience gave me new found respect for undercover reporters because the footage I ended up taking resembles the kind of stuff that gets smuggled out of North Korea, except it's much rougher; I'm clearly not cut out for cutting-edge investigative reporting.