While sharing a few drinks in front of yet another convenience store in Seoul, South Korea, my friends and I noticed that someone had placed a most wanted poster onto the window. This listed South Korea‘s 25 most notorious offenders and within moments my friend George, who speaks Korean fluently was making his way down the list.
# 1: Wanted for the murder of one person
# 2: Wanted for the murder of one person
# 3: Wanted for the rape of one woman
# 4 to # 25: Wanted for fraud…
This list is as close as I have ever come to an explanation for the sheer incompetence and security guard type nature of the Korean police force. Actually come to think of it, security guards actually chase you, so scratch that, taxi drivers are probably a more apt comparison for Seoul’s police department. My working theory is that a lack of actual crime since the dissolution of military dictatorships in the early 90s has resulted in an inability to breed crime fighters. It’s also possible that they just leave white people alone because they know we don’t speak Korean.
I first took notice of this problem while I was drying my clothes in the laundromat around the corner from my apartment one early morning. While I sat down listening to my mp3 player and waiting to put on a respectable pair of pants, I spotted two cops sitting across from me, playing with their new I pad. I was a bit curious why an otherwise empty laundromat in a dead part of town at two in the morning required police protection but I soon realized these men weren’t here to serve and protect my colours or whites, they were just looking for somewhere warm to escape to while on “patrol”, because really, what the fuck else were they gonna do with their time in a country where the top criminals were stealing debit cards?
On a side note, Korean debit cards do NOT require a pin or code of any kind to purchase goods and services, in fact all it requires is that someone “signs” an electronic keypad which usually amounts to little more then scratching it to make a line. Call me crazy but maybe fucking PIN codes would put an end to all that fraud but hey what the fuck do I know.
In any event, to drive home this point I’ve decided to compile my own list of the 3 most ridiculous police interventions that I either witnessed or heard of, during my stay in the city of Seoul.
# 3 we got a fighter! someone get the massage table!
While in the hospital for a
sex change drug testing job I came across another foreigner who was all too happy to swap stories with me about the Seoul police. In fact everyone there were foreigners, we were all getting paid to try a new acid reflux drug which was being developed as a result of their competitors having had their patent run out. Oddly enough the American FDA required that all drugs tested for a US market be tested on Caucasians specifically (this has fuck all to do with the police but it seems weird enough to be worth mentioning). So over dinner my new roommate mentioned that he had once spotted two Ajumas (elder Korea women) arguing in the road. When a young police officer approached and attempted to diffuse the situation one of the women apparently slapped him and garnered no reaction. This did not surprise me too much considering the incredibly high degree of importance that age plays in Korean culture but his next tale certainly did. Apparently he had also witnessed a drunk Korea man (this is somewhat redundant considering that they’re all severe alcoholics) who had been trying to take a swing at the cops. Their solution was to sit his ass down and have one officer hold his wrists while another gave him a gentle back rub to calm him down.
# 2 A German, a Frenchman and an American walk into a bar.
So my German, French and American friends walk into an abandoned bar (sandwiched between another bar below and an abandoned bar above). Nearly a week prior to that Yannis and Maxime, my German and French friends respectively, had smashed their way into an abandoned bar, above the abandoned bar they were currently standing in, and destroyed everything. Television sets, lights, tables and chairs were all trashed beyond recognition and bolstered by this success and a night of alcohol buckets the three amigos decided to try their chances yet again, now having brought along Alex, a tall Alabaman to join in the party
After breaking in they began going to town on the usual targets, lights, chairs etc. but unfortunately for them, unlike the previous bar, they were now within earshot of the patrons and workers at the bar below them and consequently the police were called in.
When they came strolling up the stairs the American simply stood there, confident that he would no doubt walk away unscathed, the Frenchman threw up his hands and surrendered and the German fled to the washroom to hide… funny thing about traveling, it tends to reinforce stereotypes more then break them down.
They wrote down the three men’s names in Hangeul, Korean script, and took down their phone numbers as well. This was of course incredibly pointless considering that there’s no register in which foreign names would be recorded in Korean script but in any even the police seemed unfazed by the situation as a whole. They provided my friends with a stern warning not to do that again or…. well I guess then they’d give them another stern warning, and then, their job clearly completed, they were off.
# 1 Merry Christmas?
While the typical westerner celebrates their Christmas with family, meals and presents, the holiday has taken on a more kitsch value in Korea. Young men and women head to the clubs and bars, dressed in their best slutty Santa costumes and proceed to get completely shitfaced. On this particular Christmas eve, Dieuke, a Dutch exchange student and arguably Yonsei University 2010’s hottest mess, decided that she had grown tired of acting sane and instead opted to get hammered and spit and kick at her friends in the bar. Quickly enough someone called the fuzz and myself and her other male friends took turns restraining her, mostly for the protection of our own balls, which she seemed to enjoy kicking.
Upon the police’s arrival they offered to drive her back to the dorms and myself being the only man whose balls hadn’t been assaulted, I offered to go with her for the five-minute ride and make sure she made it in alright. So my friends and I tossed her into the back of the cop car and I hopped in with her. Now you may be asking yourself, what kind of police let random civilians handle their back door. This, while it is no doubt a legitimate question, pales in comparison to the question I was asking myself. “Where the fuck is the cage?”
Not only was there absolutely no obstruction of any kind between the back seat and front (other than the seats of course) after paying careful attention to all police vehicles over the following months I would come to learn that none of the typical Korean police vehicles had cages, even their vans just use the extra space to install a coffee table for paperwork. Now if you ever wondered what those cages are for, part of the reason is that so when you and your drunk ass friend are in the back of a cop car you won’t have to keep grabbing her wrists to keep her from swinging towards the front seat.
She kept trying to punch the cops and I was sure that at any moment the pigs would lose their shit, but they just kept smoking away and laughing at the crazy bitch in the back. When they finally pulled up to the dorms, Dieuke threw her door open and took off. I, still in a Canadian mindset thought that I should probably catch her before the police did and took her to jail, so while the cops kept smoking and laughing I took off running. Once I caught her she spun around, kicked me and fell on her ass.
“That’s it! Take this crazy bitch to jail!” I screamed over to the Police who were now leaning on the hood of their car, still smoking and laughing. I took off in one direction while Dieuke approached the cops and took off yet again, now in another direction. Within minutes we had crossed paths again and while she slowly ran down the road in her heels, crying all the way, the cops followed behind slowly in their car, having the time of their life and enjoying the show.
Ultimately the cops abandoned their 3km/hr pursuit and Dieuke ran all the way back to the bar, leaving a trail of clothes behind her but it was nice to know that if ever I ran out of cab fair there would be the trusty Seoul police to give me a ride.
Ultimately I’m not quite sure what exactly my opinion is on the Korean police, on the one hand they offer little to no incentive for not acting like a fool and yet if I were Rodney King, moving my ass to Seoul would probably seem like a good fucking idea… you know before he was found floating dead in his pool that is. Ultimately they do appear to often be genuinely decent people, which cannot be said for all Police Departments, so I suppose that’ll do pigs, that’ll do.