Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Did that lady just slap someone?

   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. The police men have much better things to worry about like catching men that spit on the street, and people who drop their cigarette butts. 


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. 

10 개의 댓글:

Laudanum said...

hahhaa i lold so hard to that after reading the explanation. if you did that in the states you would have a short shelf life.

Joe said...

totally doing this in PB

Unknown said...

I am so trying that tomorrow at Tiananmen Square!!

Ingram said...

Wow, this is mad funny. Your description is so dead on. Oh and she does, on occasion slap a non Korean person or two. I have been a victim a few times in the past. I've learned to steer clear.

Unknown said...

Marie give her some money!

Lauren said...

Marie this is friggin hilarious!

Marie W said...

Thanks for your opinion Anonymous! I always like to hear from my readers whether its good or bad input.

Anonymous said...

I also took issue with that statement...

"There are not many homeless people in Korea, due to the low rate of violence and drug use."

Don't believe everything you hear. I have witnessed and experienced more violence in my 4 years in Korea than I experienced in 24 years growing up in the US. I think Koreans don't really consider it to be violence unless it's random senseless violence like terrorism or committed by a mentally disabled person. When a boyfriend smacks his girlfriend to keep her in line or a drunk guy fights with his coworker in the street, it's "not violence" because "they know each other."

Marie W said...

I have also experienced violence in Korea, and the kind that makes your head spin off! One time I was walking to work, and two drunk men were fighting. One of the men knocked out the other and then stomped on his face several times. Meanwhile, the police on the same side of the street just sat in their car and turned their lights on while the attacker stumbled away. Witnesses just kept passing the scene and acted as bystanders not doing anything to help the situation.

While the violence I have seen in Korea has mostly been related to alcohol consumption, I have experienced even more violence in America from those that are sober. I have had friends that were mugged several times walking on the streets. A women was recently attacked in daylight in my neighborhood and then someone stole her purse.

I have also personally witnessed an abundance of homeless people in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Denver. In almost any downtown location there are homeless people on every street corner.

In Korea, I witnessed more concentrated groups of homeless people. This gives the appearance that the city has less homeless people than there truly exist when walking around on a daily basis.

I do not associate homelessness only with violence and drug use. I know that most of the homeless in America have mental disorders and I expect the same situation in Korea.

In my personal experience traveling in Korea for a period of 2 weeks in 2009 I did not see one homeless person on the street. When I moved there in 2012, I noted that for a big city, there appeared to be less homeless than in previous cities I had lived in. I still felt this way after traveling to Seoul Station where large groups of homeless people congregate. In America, I see homeless people everywhere in the downtown areas of Los Angeles, San Diego, and Denver. They are forbidden to congregate in such massive groups unlike the groups in Seoul which seem to always be in one location.

Wowbeauty said...

I appreciate the way you're highlighting the importance of empathy and understanding in our interactions with in gwalior

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