Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Comes the Inquisitor

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise... surprise and fear... fear and surprise... Our two weapons are fear and surprise... and ruthless efficiency..." - Monty Python

A constant feature of our old apartment was a steady stream of allegedly spiritually-minded people turning up at the door and ringing our bell, demanding to enter our apartment to speak to us for the the sake of our well-being. I should add, that I use the word 'bell' here in the broadest definition of the word, because it made no mere ringing noise when pressed, but instead would launch into an extended tune reminiscent of the kind of alarm which featured heavily in 1980s digital watches - except very, very loudly. Quite why anyone thought such a bell should be a standard feature on the one-room apartments in our block is a mystery, when you would be lucky to get any further than a few feet away from the door. I will, therefore, henceforth refer to it as a siren.

I came to Korea in October 2006, but my sense of cynicism caught a later flight. Back in the days before it arrived, when I used to open the door to anyone who rang the siren, I think I once talked to one of the inquisitors about Spain or spoons, but they didn't try to attend to my spiritual well-being, possibly because of the rumour that foreigners don't have souls.

Now, on the principle that anyone going door-to-door demanding to be let in shouldn't for that very reason, and that furthermore, such behaviour isn't exactly an advert for social harmony or mental stability, my wife would play along and tell them - through the door - that we didn't need our fortunes read or need to know what vital revelation about our lives they specifically had while meditating at a nearby temple. In any case, I've seen that movie and the punchline is that you're going to be visited by a homicidal maniac and on no account should you let them enter your apartment...

In fact, it's hard to imagine just who exactly does open the door to these people. But, I think we once heard them working their way down our corridor, and a door actually did open and there was a long silence before the button on the next apartment's siren was pressed.

But one of the other residents had clearly had enough, and was perfectly prepared to provoke the wrath of the zealots. Essentially translated, the sign reads:

People from small 'teaching' groups [anything ending in '도'], churches and temples,
Stay away - don't bother us.
Do not ring the bell [siren].
- The Owner


The seriousness of the message and the red highlights though is slightly offset by the subsequent picture of Johnny Depp from The Pirates of the Caribbean, or perhaps it's meant to be Jesus? Anyway, my impression was that most of our callers weren't actually Christians but an eclectic mix of other things. Quite why our apartment should apparently be situated in the middle of spook central will perhaps remain one of life's mysteries. Since we've moved, nobody has come to visit, and it seems there are no more important messages to impart to us from whatever deities these people were communing with. We also don't get our door plastered with fast-food adverts every day either - unfortunately - sadly confirming that the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.

2 comments:

Bill said...

Hey there Mike.

A new phenomena in Korea is fishing for people. A hodge podge of groups -- almost cultic in nature -- are trying to worm themselves into people's lives under various pretenses. The purpose is to obtain information about social status, money, numbers of children, vulnerabilities and how connected one is to the community. Often the information is put into data banks where other people you will never meet begin stealth projects to part your money from you. Korea is completely networked with organized groups expert at worming their way into your life and extracting money out of your bank account. They have project plans for victims that last over months. These groups are highly successful. It usually starts with a smiling ajumma ringing your door bell. Once she gets her foot in your door, your life will never be the same. It's best to keep that door shut.

Mike said...

Thanks for that fascinating explanation Bill. I'd assumed it was a mix of religion and simple attempts to con money out of the unsuspecting, but the picture you paint, with individual project plans, is of something far more organised that I could have imagined. And yet, you are completely right about Korea's networked nature and it all sounds so entirely plausible. Yes, I imagine these groups are very successful.

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