m a r k a n d e y a

I thought it was a myth…

Posted by Brian on March 15, 2005

Yesterday, during the elevator ride up to my apartment, I had the type of shocking experience that I thought only occured in the wet dreams of the most virulent Korea-bashers found at Dave’s ESL or Englishspectrum.

Heading up to my place, I stepped into the elevator and found myself sharing it with two ajummas and a young kid (maybe 4 or 5 years old) standing between them. I’m standing in the front with the three of them behind me, but I can see their reflection in the metal door. So I’m minding my own business thinking about how happy I am to have finally gotten my South Park seasons 1-4 DVD set from the states, when the kid looks up to his mom (I assume) and says in Korean, “he looks like a monkey” while pointing at me.

Turning around, I asked the kid in Korean,”I look like a monkey?” At this point, his mom kind of pushes his hand down so he’s no longer pointing at me and mumbles “I’m sorry,” in Korean. Fortunately for them, as I was fully prepared to have a discussion about what had just happened, the elevator arrived at their floor and they quickly shuffled out with their heads down. As they left, I told them to be careful with their language next time, to which I saw the ajumma crack a slight smile as she turned the corner out of my field of view.

After they left, I continued up to my place and told my girlfriend about what happened. She, of course, started making the usual excuses (“he’s just a kid”), to which I replied that he has to learn such attitudes somewhere… just as the underage white-supremacists that used to be regulars on Jerry Springer had to learn their backwards thinking from someone. The problem, obviously, is with their parent and teachers.

Now, 25 years ago, had I pointed to a  stranger in an elevator and told my folks he looked like a monkey, I would have gotten a solid slap as a result. This kid, as is usual in Korea, gets nothing.

Part of what made the episode so troubling was the flagrant nature of the whole thing. This little shit, standing one foot away from me, literally pointed at me and called me a monkey. And as far as I remember, I wasn’t eating a banana or swinging from a vine in the elevator… I was wearing a blazer, tie, and a nice pair of slacks. WTF?

While I see things every now and then that make me optimistic about Korea’s future, its experiences like this one that remind me just how backwards Koreans can be at times.

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