Tag Archives: Itaewon

A Long Wave

Busy

People need to stop talking about a “second wave” or “the next resurgence.” Outside of China, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea, the world is still pretty much dealing with the first wave. It bothers me that people have been itching for businesses to re-open, to get their hair cut or their nails done, only after a few weeks. So much so that there are protests in some countries which could inevitably spread the virus even further. South Korea has been dealing with the virus and social distancing since February. The rest of the world needs to calm down.

South Korea has been enjoying a good record on getting infection rates down. The country had zero local infections for a number of days. Then over the long weekend, one person came from out of town to Itaewon in Seoul and partied in five bars and clubs. He ended up spreading the coronavirus to a number of people. Just this morning, the number was 52 cases. Unfortunately, the area and a couple of the clubs are popular among the gay community. So contact tracing will be extremely difficult. People would be more secretive about their presence in the area compared to how tight-lipped people were about their relationship with the Shincheonji cult during after the initial outbreak this year.

The incident highlights the greed and hubris of some people, both the business owners and the patrons. Club and bar owners have been itching to get people coming in. I realize they have bills to pay and everything, but this rush to open and fill their venues with people paying in often un-taxable cash has inevitably hurt their business even more. Now the bars and clubs are forced to shut down.

A bit of history. Itaewon is multi-cultural district near the army base in Seoul. A few years ago, due to the music video “Itaewon Freedom,” it became a very popular hangout spot not just for foreigners but also the locals. It caused a lot of Koreans to start their own bars and restaurants and even pushed out many of the foreign establishments which gave the area its distinct character. Later, with news that the army base nearby will be shutting down, real estate prices began to rise dramatically, and many of the businesses began to shut down as well. The place is now filled with buildings being torn down, presumably for bigger buildings to be built. Business hasn’t really been good for the area recently due to a Japanese boycott and the coronavirus. The place looks like a shell of its former self if you walk around during the day. Then a few weeks ago, ‘Itaewon Class,’ a popular webtoon-turned-K-Drama gave the area a bit of push, especially since the drama focused on upbeat nightlife and gorgeous young people. Unfortunately, I think the bar and club owners got ahead of themselves. Many clubs opened with sanitizers at the door and masks laughably “mandatory.” And now with these businesses being forced to closed, the area is dead both during the day and at night.

It annoys me how lame (yes, LAME) the people who insist on clubbing and partying during the pandemic are. Can’t they read the room? And yes, I’ve had my clubbing phase before, but I’m sure the minute someone tells me that masks and sanitizers are mandatory, I’d probably cool it a little bit. How fun could it be going out and partying wearing a mask outside of Halloween?! There are other ways to get laid! Or better yet, DON’T get laid. Stay in for a few days. It won’t kill you (It won’t kill your old relatives either). Even Pornhub is famously helping by providing their premium content for free. It annoys me still that with Itaewon bars and clubs closing, many are going to Gangnam and maybe even Hongdae to party. This is utter hubris. This is the Korean version of spring breakers in Florida.

And now people are on alert again. One of the infected happens to be US military as well. A few are foreigners. More than ever, people are talking about how many foreigners in the country seem to walk around thinking that they are invulnerable to the virus by not wearing masks. They don’t seem to understand that the reason why the masks and the whole sanitation and social distancing works is that if everyone does it, the greater the chance it will be effective. They can afford not to wear a mask because everyone else is. And that’s just being a selfish, ethnocentric ass hat. At least wear one because “when in Rome…” A collective effort is how Korea managed to get its coronavirus situation under control. It’s when actors stray from this collective effort that leads to an outbreak: the cult breaking protocol, and now with these dumb clubs.

It annoys me even more that the incident is probably reinforcing the stereotype of foreigners (and perhaps gay people) being too carefree or not being serious people. Just this morning, I was encouraged out of nowhere to tell my friends who went clubbing over the weekend to get tested. Huh?! Why me?? For years, people assume I have connections to the club/party scene simply because I’m a foreigner.

The thing is, even during the worst of the pandemic. I still went out to restaurants. I still went out to bars. But the establishments I go to are around my neighborhood. They are in the community which I would probably have contact with at some point since work was never really shut down for me. I don’t think it’s smart to travel, go to crowded places with other people from out of town or wherever, and inadvertently spread the virus. People still need to be wary of spreading the virus and not indulge in overly unnecessary risks.

So with Korea reeling and in a bit of a panic over the recent (hopefully) mini outbreak, why are other countries so confident that they can ride through it like more people won’t get infected? I realize companies want people working just so they wouldn’t cover their unemployment insurance costs, but other than that, how do you explain everyday Joe-Schmoe itching to go out there, get a haircut, and maybe catch the virus and kill grandma? There’s no second wave, folks. Korea, which is a model country in terms of the coronavirus is still dealing with the virus like it’s the first wave. Businesses are still hurting. People are still strapped financially. But with much of the virus still being unknown, it’s really best to just stick to social distancing and calm down for a bit. Get used to this new life for a while. I know, I know. It’s easy for me to say that while I still have a job. But, I have a feeling it’s going to be a very long and painful ride, and pushing life to normalcy regardless of the risks would simply make things worse.

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Global Village Laziness and Crazy Dream Therapists

Faces

If a person has never traveled any countries outside of South Korea and was only exposed to the varied cuisines of the world via the Global Village Festival in Seoul last weekend, they would think that other countries only serve hotdog, chicken on a stick, and kebabs. What a disappointment! The crowd was bigger, but the event was extremely lazy and underwhelming.

All booths from African and Middle Eastern countries were serving kebabs. That’s all they had! There were a couple that served samosas and other more exotic fare, but generally, that’s all they served.

All booths from European and North American countries served hotdogs/sausages or to a lesser extent, chicken on a stick. Same generic sausage all over the place. The Canadian booth, instead of serving poutine or anything Canadian, was serving hotdog on a stick. The Philippines booth was serving the same thing, except they had coconut milk and churros. Lazy, lazy, lazy. And why churros? Isn’t that from Spain, not the Philippines? Well, ignoring the fact that the Philippines is a former Spanish colony, churros are all the rage in Seoul at the moment. There would be line-ups for popular churros places in the city. Why? Because someone mentioned the churros place on TV, which is generally how restaurants get a huge line-up in the country. Sheep. And yes, I’m sorry, but only sheep would line up for over an hour to buy deep-fried, sugary, dough.

My wife and I were in Winnipeg last year. She noted that at the Forks (http://www.theforks.com/dining/show,listing/forks-market), a public space in a small city, there were far more variety and authentic global cuisines compared to this so called “Global Village Festival.” The event was kinda offensive, not just as a Canadian (hotdogs!?), but as someone who’s actually had food from other countries. This is the last time my wife and I go to this festival. We ran out of patient fast. We ended up going to my regular South African bar wondering why didn’t just go straight there in the first place.

Imagine a room with at least three couples and one moderator. The moderator asks everyone to close their eyes. He then says, “Anyone who’s ever wanted to stray from their marriage, especially if that person you want to sleep with is in the room, raise your right hand.”

“Now, if you have your hand raised, open your eyes and look around. Those who don’t have their hand raised, keep your eyes closed.”

“Everyone put your hand down and close your eyes.”

“Now, do what you will with that new information you just learned (or that burning curiosity that’s bound to destroy your relationship).”

I had a dream about that scenario. At the very least, the exercise could open dialogue and spark ideas. At the most, it could arrange amicable cheating arrangements. At its worst, it could destroy marriages. My dreams have a creative yet misguided couples’ counselor.

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