I am aware that in Korea there are different cultural norms about touching people. For instance when people greet one another they bow instead of shaking hands. However, in the midst of such a conservative society I have discovered that there is more physical contact between Koreans than you would think.
Many tourists and expats in Korea may feel strange the first few days of their visit. Yes, that's because everyone is staring right at you! They are obsessed with your every move and may even chase after you to find out your nationality. Trust me, after a while you simply have to learn to get used to the attention. Otherwise you will have a pack of hungry cubs following you around Seoul.
During my first week in Korea I was shocked when several older men literally grabbed or touched my arm while I was walking down the street. Since when did I become a local celebrity? In order to fight off the daily encounters with awkward touches, I quickly learned how to ignore these people. Yelling the word "A-nee-yo" or "no" at the top of my lungs helps too!
To my surprise, expats and foreigners in Korea are not the only ones being harassed on a daily basis. I was warned by one of my co-workers to stay away from a homeless woman who sits in the middle of the sidewalk close to my office in Jongno. This woman has been dubbed "the slapping lady" by the general public. You can usually spot her every day of the week somewhere between the Jongno 3 sam-ga subway stop and Jongno tower.
This woman sits in a small, tight ball and looks like she is keeping to herself. But this is just her cover, because before you know it she has reached out and slapped you across the legs! Luckily this women does not slap foreigners, probably because she is too afraid to test their limits. But she knows that if she slaps another Korean they will just give her a strange look and keep walking! By watching her closely I discovered that her average slapping rate is 2.5 Koreans every five minutes.
There are not many homeless people in Korea in comparison to America, due to the much lower rates of violence and drug use. So this woman really stands out because she sits in the middle of the sidewalk. Right after she smacks someone, she gets this weird little smile across her face. You might be wondering why police don't put her in jail, and this is because her harassment is considered of little importance here in Korea.
If you have encountered "The slapping lady" in Jongno, or have any other questions or comments for me feel free to state your thoughts by clicking on the link below.