Driving, it’s a Lifestyle Choice


Life, regardless of where you live, is a bit like driving: it doesn’t matter how careless and scary the fella in front of you is, you still have deal with whatever situation is put before you otherwise there’s a good chance you could end up in hospital (and let’s face it, even if the insurance does pay, you could be proper fucked).

A car. You can drive this.

It all boils down to this – so what if someone is doing something you disagree with as you pass them on the street or wherever, it’s likely that there is very little that you can do about them other than get annoyed and go on about your day, red in the face from whatever it is that this person did. You could possibly do something about it, like stand over and explain to them the error of their ways, however it’s likely you won’t (and I know I don’t – I’m not up on a high horse here), and I imagine most people sit around chewing wasps or whatever until they find something else that bothers them.  What does this do? Nothing. I say, shut up, deal with it, then get back on with your own life because there’s more important things to be doing that bitching about some useless strangers inability to function inside a prescribed (ha) social structure.

Cross at your peril (I mean it)!

I do my best to keep this in mind whenever I step outside the front door, because getting angry and trying to explain why a person or something happens doesn’t make it any better. Dealing with the situation where I come out on the best possible footing (unscarred) is always my first priority, and keeping my blood pressure as low as possible in the process is my second. Still, I’m no angel. Driving doesn’t help.

Gangnam traffic (fortunately I resisted the urge to caption it Gangnam s**** traffic)

There’s a lot of complaint out there in the Korea waeg universe. People complaining about racism, job insecurity and dodgy bosses, the weather, the food, the wrong sized shoes…well all I can say to most people is, hell at least you don’t drive here.

And yes, all these things are probably worse than driving but they’re avoidable (ignore racism and get on with your day, quit your shit job an get a better one, get an air conditioner/heater/raincoat, eat food you like, buy shoes from wherever they do fit, or just learn to flow), just as much as driving is avoidable, but it’s a lifestyle choice. I choose to drive because it makes my life here easier, and believe me, all the other complaints I listed above, I learned to deal with them also.

Another fuckin’ hero without a helmet on his scooter in Gangnam.

As soon as you get into a car here, or anywhere in fact, the social contract changes and all of a sudden your usual eye-contact polite smile and nod method of getting on with life is obscured by the windscreen so that means the rules go out the window…or something to that effect…and even if you’re a nice guy you still have to be a dick otherwise people are going to be stepping all over you for the rest of your life, y’here?

 

A Personal History of Haebangchon


I like Haebangchon. I have only lived there briefly, but I lived nearby for a while and spent many formative years in Korea there. I made a lot of friends there, and I still have plenty who float in and out of bars and cafés and shout and wave at me when I turn up on random sorties. A bit like me, Haebangchon has changed a lot, and I’d even say it has become more sophisticated, but still with its old town grit that people come back for so much.

Haebangchon is, in essence, a slum. At least it started out that way. Officially named Yongsan-2 dong, the place gets its name after it became a place where North Korean refugees settled after the war, which is why it’s called Haebangchon, meaning Freedom or Liberation Village depending on who you’re talking too. I know that when residents ask a taxi to take them there, regardless of where in the city they’re coming from, they’ll ask the taxi driver to take them to Yongsan-2 dong. It has a dubious nature, and you’ll do well to get a taxi from Itaewon to there late at night, but that has nothing to do with it being a dodgy neighbourhood. As far as I know, there are a few more former North Korean refugee enclaves around the city, but this is the only one I’ve heard off, and it’s also probably the most famous.

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Letter from Korea, May 2012.


Dear Ireland

I feel obliged to offer an apology for a lack of social commentary on life in Korea. Being Irish, I complain all the time, even when things are going well. If you were to sit with me for a relatively short period of time, I would undoubtedly complain about plenty of things I can do nothing about. It’s kind of an old-man syndrome I suppose.

The thing is, complaining about life in Korea doesn’t interest me as much anymore. Well, at least complaining about it on the internet and pointing out all the failings and the misery and normality of living here doesn’t interest me much. I suppose it’s just not productive. It doesn’t make my life any better, and while I’d love to attract the swathes of readers across the waeg readership who are itching for scandal and tales of depravity and inadequacy, I’m pretty happy to keep to myself these days. You see, it’s not just Irish people who like to complain all the time about things they can do nothing about.

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