2/15/10

Foreigners? Come on in, and out the exit!

I went to E-Mart (a large Korean grocery/department store). Bought a pair of earphones because the pair that came with my iPOD stopped working a few weeks ago. I just couldn't bring myself to buy another pair. That's because I have about 5 pairs of earphones back in storage in Virginia. It was getting kind of bad because I could only hear Ray Charles in the duet song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." Sounds good, but Ray can't carry the song alone...But the option was to spend $1,500 on a ticket to Virginia to get several pairs of earphones.

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After E-Mart I stopped at a PC room to check my email.

Seemed okay when I first walked into the building. The name of the place is "Game Holic."



There's even a welcome mat at the front of the door of the place.









But....OOPS!



But wait...was it a grammatical problem? I don't mean "f" in "foreigner."

As in..."No! foreigner, please." Please, what? Please, come in?

In many cases, when Americans ask a question like, "Wouldn't you like to eat some ice cream," Americans will answer either, "Yes, I would," or "No, I wouldn't." Koreans would answer the opposite.

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A few days ago in Suwon I stopped at a book store, with "Book Store" written in English on the side of the building. Imagine my surprise when I found only Korean books in a store with "Book Store" written on the side of the building. At least the sign wasn't written, "No! english books." Or would that mean that there were English books there?

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At the PC room I wasn't in the mood to be Martin Luther King Jr., but I decided to walk in just to check their reaction. The employee on duty was playing a game, but he hopped up and rushed to me. Seemed nice enough, he was ready to seat me.

I've always admired those civil rights activists from the past who demanded to be served at all-white restaurants, knowing full well in many cases that the white employees would spit in their food. I asked the guy in Korean if they had a business card I could have but he said they didn't have any. So I decided to go to a different place. This one is named "Thank U". I did thank them when I came in...

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Back during the mid-1990s there was a minor controversy in Itaewon (an area where a lot of non-Koreans live). There were various drinking establishments there that had competing "No foreigner" or "No Koreans Allowed" signs. A friend of mine at the time had his birthday party at one of the "No Koreans Allowed" places (I think it was called the Nashville Club). A Korean friend who joined at the last minute stopped in his tracks when he saw the sign, "No Koreans Allowed."

I told him, "No problem, we'll get you in." Actually, I didn't know about the sign before we arrived, but was willing to raise a ruckus to get him into the place. I've always been a libertarian at heart recognizing the rights of owners to prohibit undesirable customers, but I also recognize that it isn't unlibertarian to make an argument to owners that I'll do everything I can to embarrass them if they don't change their ways.

So at that time at the Nashville I didn't mind playing Martin Luther King Jr.--or in that case, the late Pee Wee Reese (the Dodgers white shortstop who wrapped his arm around Jackie Robinson at a time other players avoided him).

I was ready for a battle...instead, we got a welcome mat that wasn't pulled under our feet. We walked in, sat down, and ordered food and drinks. We were both surprised to see so many Koreans inside. I later learned that the sign was (allegedly) put there to keep groups of Korean males from entering the place and harassing Korean females hanging out with non-Koreans. So it may be that the place today would let me in by myself, meaning the sign should have been written, "No! korean, please."

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CJL