A Confounding Slice of Life

On line 1 of the Seoul Subway today, I get on at Bucheon station to find a train which has no empty seats but almost no standing passengers.  I know empty seats will appear when we get to the transfer at Onsu station.  I am standing towards the far end of one train next to the seats that are reserved for the elderly, the infirm, the pregnant and those with babies.  A man in that section, an old man whose red face means either that he’s drunk or very suntanned waves at me and yells something, but i cannot understand him because I am listening to the Magnetic Fields song ‘I thought you were my boyfriend’.  The man continues gesturing and saying something so I turn around to see what he wants.

Having gotten my attention, he directs my attention to an empty seat in the restricted seating section. ‘Sit down.’ I hear him say politely as I pause the music.

I have an instant reaction.  waving my hands and scrunching up my face as if to say ‘Out of the question!’ I indicate that I wouldn’t dare sit in the section without first breaking a leg.

For a few minutes I think about the implications of this.  Here in Korea, a Confucian country for all intents and purposes, an man in his sixties offers a seat intended for the elderly and ill to a young healthy man in the prime of his life just because he is a foreigner of a particularly favored hue.  I came to the conclusion that I would have been particularly embarassed had I been riding with this man.  With that thought we arrived at Onsu station and I got my vacant seat in the section where I belonged.


~ by Joshing on April 10, 2008.

2 Responses to “A Confounding Slice of Life”

  1. I seriously approve of listening to the Magnetic Fields on subways and busses. AND I like your blog!

    Kudos ~

  2. My understanding what it means to be a Confucian country is very limited. Would the man’s hypothetical friend be embarrassed because the man suggested disregarding civil authority, or because you (a foreigner possibly exempt from certain social expectations much as a bird would not be expected to follow local laws) had disregarded the instructions of your elder?

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