Ajoshi

There remain a number of things unsaid between us, and because most of you seem to be the same, outwardly at least, I will address all of you henceforth as “ajoshi”, or for those uninitiated in Korean culture, “an old angry Korean man fed up with wasting away his entire life as a slave of alcohol and corporate feudalism. Because he is too far gone to change any of his ways, he takes out his anger on everyone whom he views to be beneath him, namely, those who are not obviously older than him, or in possession of significant wealth and power. He is not just a commonplace sight in Korea—he is ubiquitous.”

Ajoshi. I’ve put up with you for a long time because I am a guest in your country, but you have sometimes not treated me with the respect a host owes his guest. Beyond a few possible dirty looks, and sullen silences, and wistful sighs, I have not raised a finger against you. Nonetheless, there are many things that remain unsaid between us.

When you began counting all of the foreigners in a subway car with one of your friends, I did not say that this was rude, and a footstep on the path to fascism. Similar behavior in a child would guarantee said child getting thrown through a window: but because you are wrinkled and because you have been dying your gray hair black for several decades, it is permissible. When you entered a very small ATM booth which my wife and I were using, and asked us, in unbearably impolite banmal, if we were finished, I did not yell at you and hurl you out onto the street, as I should have.

When you again growled at me in banmal as I was trying to figure out our new apartment’s recycling area, and demanded a two dollar bribe for the privilege of leaving our worthless vacuum cleaner with the trash, I did not tell you to go suck your own dick, or demand two dollars in blood money for the vomit-inducing pain of having to listen to your dog-like peasant’s barking, as I probably should have, in your native language. Instead I pretended that I did not understand you, and then politely informed you that I had no money, and took the vacuum cleaner back up to our apartment. Whereupon my wife moved it downstairs again the next day while you were probably masturbating in a cyber cafe.

When you drunkenly sat on the floor of a subway car, in imitation of a stunt some foreigners pulled in Seoul a few weeks ago, and discussed my appearance with your gaggle of inebriated mountaineer ajumma concubines, and then told me in banmal to sit down as you left the subway, presumably to enjoy your nightly round of booze, barbecue, and sex slaves, I did not castigate you in front of everyone on the subway, as I probably should have.

Ajoshi, oh ajoshi. You block the escalators. You do not know how to navigate sidewalks and ride motorcycles through crowds of pedestrians, honking the entire time as if you have a right to be there. You cannot move on the subway without shoving everyone in your way. You are incapable of talking quietly on your cell phone. Early in the morning your burps smell like kimchi and hard alcohol. You are just such an asshole sometimes. If you made a slight effort to be polite to strangers, everything here would be more pleasant. But even though we have never met before, we are scum to you. I am so tired of this. My linguistic abilities are not yet high enough to do battle with you on your own terms, so I have little choice but to whine about you here on my little blog, in English, but rest assured, the day will dawn, sir, when I scream at you to take your damn dirty claws off me, and go straight down to hell!

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