I was on the train home from Myeongdong Cathedral with Miyoung tonight, and after sitting down I noticed that the young man next to me in a searingly pink shirt, probably in the first half of his twenties, was holding a singed paper cup. Looking closer, I recognized that he was holding a mostly-used up candle from one of the massive candle-light rallies going on in Seoul over the import of US beef but really about the Lee Myung-Bak administration’s management style and other domestic issues. He was also holding a rolled up sign that said something like ‘Stop Lee Myung-Bak.’
After a good while I pointed him out to Miyoung. ‘Check out this guy, he’s got a candle from a rally. He’s going to take it back home to show people what he did this weekend.’
‘Don’t be mean.’ I love Miyoung’s response. It’s rich with meaning.
‘I’m not being mean, that’s what young people do. When I was young when I went to concerts in Manhattan I used to put the ticket stub in my wallet so it would fall out every time I opened it.’ I lied.
Know this about me: I’m so keen to emphasize the commonalities between all people that I sometimes lie that I’ve had the same experience as other people just to make my point.
Anyway right after that we got off the train and a thought came to me.
‘Tomorrow morning he’s going to light that candle again, and bathe in its tallowy smoke, and then all day long he’s going to say ‘Oh, don’t mind the smell, it’s just candle. From the rally. The rally I went to yesterday.’
‘Now you’re being mean.’
Coda: We came home and we’re watching a show about the recent rallies. They look like a lot of fun, with people bugging the riot police, demanding that the president give the crowd breakfast, etc. At one point we watched the police try to get some guys off one of their ‘chicken coop’ riot police trucks with a fire hose pointed straight down, and I was inspired to proclaim ‘신났네, 이 새끼들!’ (Boy, those bastards sure are having fun!’, a very sarcastic way of saying that all they’re doing is playing around at having a rally).
Didn’t go over that well. The cursing, I mean. And probably the sentiment as well.