Friday, September 08, 2006

My former co-worker wrote this and I thought that it needed to be stated here in my blog.

I really did not see what was going on until I saw Stephanie say no, then I moved the guy away from Steph in about 2 seconds. I still can not believe that these Korean men try and buy Stephanie like she is a piece of meat. I have always wondered what would happen if I tried to buy a girl at that club, like the Korean men were trying to buy Stephanie. Is was very pathetic to see the guy cry because I removed him from Stephanie but damn it was just sad. I kept my eye on him for the rest of the night. I was in taxi one so I did not see the cab 2 incident, but I would have removed him again if I had been in cab 2.

Here is the rest of the story from her own words.....

For those of you who aren’t foreigners in Korea or familiar with our situation, because I have blonde hair and blue eyes, in Korea it is assumed that I am Russian. The first few times I heard this, I wasn’t surprised or offended by this because I passed for a Russian in Russia both times I went there. Later, I came to understand that by being asked if I am Russian, a Korean man is actually asking me if I am a prostitute (if they just ask where I’m from as an opened ended question, there’s nothing implied). The strange thing about it is that it has nothing to do with what I’m wearing or how I’m behaving, and everything to do with the way that I look naturally. I shrugged the incident off since it happens often enough not to be anything of scandal. After mentioning the event while getting the group together and walking to the North Korean bar, it became a running gag for the night.

Later, I was at a nightclub downtown called "Boobi boobi" which is always a good time. At one point, a young Korean man wanted to dance with me, so I humored him for a minute and then broke away to go dance with my little circle of friends who were nearby on the dance floor. A little while later, he came back and started asking my friend Trey about me. Trey gave me a confused/incredulous look and told the guy “no.” The guy kept asking questions and pointing to me, and Trey kept shaking his head saying “no” and crossing his arms across his chest in the Korean “no” fashion.

The guy wouldn’t let up and decided to talk to me directly. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying until the words “how much” came out of his mouth. I looked at Trey, and he said “I kept telling him that we’re American and that we’re not Russian but he keeps asking.” I was disgusted at this man’s persistence in pursuing me as a product to be bought and sold and told him in Korean to go away. The guy wouldn’t listen to me and continued trying to talk to me, but I wasn’t having it. Luckily, big Mike, my bouncer, saw me yelling at this guy and forcibly removed him from my presence. Good job, Mike! Heather said the guy almost cried when Mike tossed him away.

I was really irritated at being propositioned twice in one night, and especially at the creepy persistence of the second interested party. I needed to step away for a moment and calm down because I could feel my anger rising. I left the dance floor and stood by the lockers, drinking my drink. After about two minutes, another Korean guy came up to me, tried to put his arm around me, and asked me if I was Russian. I angrily replied that I was American, and decided that enough was enough. Three propositions in one night is three strikes and I’m out.

I rounded up my friends that hadn’t gone home already, and we decided to continue the party at my place. I took off in the first taxi with a few people, and the rest packed into the second taxi to follow us. After my taxi had pulled away, the second taxi was preparing for departure when the creepy Korean guy who wanted to buy me tried to hop in the front seat of the second taxi. Its occupants made it very clear that he was not welcome, but he refused to get out of the cab. One of the guys in taxi got out and again, had to physically removed him from the group.

This kind of situation bothers me not only because it’s insulting to be thought of as something that can be bought and sold, but I find it to be especially insulting to all the Russian women that I know (since I’m American, not Russian), most of whom are completely respectable individuals. I know that there are certain individuals and realities that give some Russian women that kind of reputation in Korea, but first of all, I guarantee you there are more Korean prostitutes than any other kind in Korea.

That does not mean that all Korean women are prostitutes, although it kills me how a regular Korean girl can walk around in high heels and a skirt so short you can see her ass cheeks and everything’s cool, but if I am completely covered I must be selling myself since I'm blonde and white. Following that train of thought, I find it appalling that some Korean people assume that all yellow haired females must be for sale. It’s total racism. I’m not comparing this in an exact way to the racism that occurred in America in the earlier part of the twentieth century, but to a certain extent, it is. I’ve had cab drivers pull up, take a look at me and say “Russia no!” before driving off without me. I’ve been approached by businessmen and propositioned in broad daylight while trying to get my groceries in a cab. I guess he thought I’d be quick enough to finish him off and get home before the ice cream melted.

Korea spends a good amount of energy trying to protect what they see as their traditional culture and values, but with that come closed-mindedness, xenophobia, and intolerance. Korea sees a lot of its cultural problems as the influence of outside (read western) culture and foreigners corrupting their food, their clothes, their language, and their general way of life. It’s all well and good to maintain one’s cultural identity, but that does not entitle any culture to hate, avoid, or look down upon another group or ethnicity simply because it is not one’s own. It makes even less sense for a country trying to become more important on the world stage to make generalizations about the people that currently reside in or visit the country.

At the same time, Koreans treat westerners (read English speakers) as something desirable and essential to what they see as their gateway to the rest of the world. I think it’s amazingly ironic that I can get a job anywhere here, and get a job instead of someone more qualified because I’m young, white, and blonde, but if I step out into the street to run some errands, some people will assume that I’m a prostitute.

I find it insulting, especially as someone who prides herself on being a person of substance, to be treated as something that can be bought or sold. It’s not the first time that it’s happened here, it won’t be the last time, I’m sure, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s embarrassing, it’s degrading, and I refuse to put up with it.

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