The Korean Shuffle

A relaxing afternoon in Namsanjeong, Busan.

The Koreans are a peculiar people (while Mainers are legendary for how normal they are (famous even as far away as the fabled boulevards of Pyongyang, where people often speak of Maine as a proverbial paradise of normalcy; Kim Jong-Il himself has often said that the best workers who stick to the rules are “as normal as Mainers”, while a humdrum day consisting of only a few executions is “as normal as a day in Maine.”)), and when you arrive in Korea, in Hanguk, in Choseon, in Goryeo, you’ll see many instances of people dancing in the streets.

These aren’t the Bollywood spectacles of burning Saris that you’ll find writhing over your shoulder in the land of Ashoka, rather, the natives in Korea will often initiate a celebration ceremony to commemorate the opening of a new market where fresh, local produce may be procured for familial consumption. The tribe will initiate the market by placing two nubile maidens at the front entrance, but only after they’ve dressed in a traditional Korean outfit consisting of short blue skirts and white (but tastefully soiled) moonboots. This ancient dress, pregnant with tradition and fraught with meaning, is then gyrated in a deeply fulfilling manner over the pale thin legs of the Korean maidens, who also rotate their arms, one over the other, so blurrily that you won’t be able to tell if the dancers are moving in sync.

This dance, symbolizing the Wheel of Time, usually lasts for eight hours a day, five days a week, and is accompanied by traditional Korean music, a wholly autochthonous concoction of throbbing synthesizers and caterwauling autotuners, all of which were invented in Korea at the time of Sejong the Great, who was an avid partaker of traditional Korean karaoke, or noraebang. The maidens are highly-respected members of society and the performance before their elders, who often stare and cross their arms before the dancers for hours at a time, will earn them a great deal of honor in Korean society. Once the market begins to turn a profit, which is not at all uncommon in Korea (where the success rate of small businesses is a staggering 150%, largely thanks to the auspicious contortions of young Korean beauties), the maidens are allowed to retire into mother- and eventual ajuma-hood. A victory present usually consists of hair curlers.

But there is also another dance here that one may witness at any moment on the phlegm-slick tar of South Korea (loogies being used to assist in the solidification process of freshly-paved avenues). Some outsiders have called it The Korean Shuffle. It’s a simple affair that one can easily practice at home: it involves walking in a straight line (unless you are walking toward someone, in which case you should immediately stare at the person in question and walk as fast as you can, straight at them, not blinking, stepping side to side as you come within striking distance) and then running at a speed only marginally faster than your walk, making sure to keep your arms in your pockets or swaying straight at your side. You must endeavor to look as embarrassed and even ashamed as possible as you run. Then, after running, or shuffling, for about twenty feet, you should resume your walk in a straight line, as though nothing had happened. Once you catch your breath, or realize that you are still late for work at your cell phone store and that your position has not really improved, you must run again, and repeat the process until you arrive at your destination.

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One thought on “The Korean Shuffle

  1. Annie says:

    Ha ha, “As normal as Mainers.” As witheringly sarcastic a simile as “The luck of the Irish.” Good one! I always enjoy and appreciate withering sarcasm.

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