Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Comfort Women statues and threats of terror

Back in Seoul after an unusually long hiatus, I was eager to visit a few places I'd been reading about in the news and blogs. Among them was the Comfort Women statue (or should I say, enforced sex slaves) located right across the street from the Japanese embassy.

So last week I headed there with my Nikon D60 and my iPhone 4. I walked purposefully down the street (I'd been to the embassy a few times, once to purchase a used right-hand drive Toyota Crown back in the 1990s, so I knew where it was). Down the street, I could see several policemen in the area, which is hardly surprising since they are tasked with protecting the various foreign missions, including the embassy of the former occupiers.

But as I approached the statue and stopped in order to position my Nikon, I was told by the senior police officer there, in Korean, that I could not take any pictures of the statue. Obviously I asked why that would be, and he told me there had been threats made to the statue.

Lest someone think that my rusty-from-Hawaii's-ocean-breeze Korean skills may have yielded a comprehension FAIL!, the polite-but-stern senior police officer (who looked to be in his late forties) mentioned the English word "terror" when he reiterated the reason.

I am usually not a confrontational person, though I can be when the situation warrants. This was not one of those times, and I thought that I would try charm and reason (I am very charming when I want to be). I told the guy I am from Seoul but lately I've been studying in Hawaii where I do a Korea news blog, and I'd been reading about this poignant statue — which I support — and I was keen to get a picture. I told them I'd read about the right-wing Japanese asshat (though I didn't say asshat) who had messed with the statue and I was sure was on their minds, but they said their threat was one from the future.

He asked me what my blog was and I used the ambient wifi to quickly type on my iPhone to show him Monster Island. Fortunately I had something a little less ridiculous than usual as the top post and he did that pensive ajŏshi sigh to show he was going to relent.

Just one picture, he said. That, too, he reiterated.

I quickly had to decide whether I should use the Nikon or the iPhone. The latter had the advantage of instantaneous editing and, with the ambient wifi (I really need to trademark that phrase), I could send it out right away (Blogger has a function where you can send posts via an email to a specially created Blogger address) so I went with that.

I asked the senior police officer and his young juniors if they'd like to be in the picture. They declined and parted like the Red Sea. I got my lonesome picture of the lonesome girl, with a banner to An Chunggŭn in the background.

Though they didn't ask, I showed them the picture and went on my way (I was late for a meeting at a 1970s-ish tabang with a friend who works with the mayor).

Before I blogged the little incident, though, I started to wonder if this was prudent. I emailed The Marmot, Zen Kimchi, and a couple others and asked if they knew anything about a no-photos regulation. They said they didn't, mentioned it's in a public area and there should be no reason it can't be photographed, and said I should go ahead and blog about it (if the cautious Marmot says go ahead, I figure there's nothing to worry about; I hope I don't end up in some Michael Breen-esque legal matter... I'm too pretty for prison).

So this was all on my mind when I read the news, a few days later, that someone Korean asshat decided, in protest of the Japanese right-wing asshat, to drive his truck into the Japanese embassy.

Could it be that the "terror" threat they were worried about was a domestic one? And did the police momentarily mistake me for an asshat?



  1. I've grown to like your blog and consider you a very productive blogger. Still, I recall the Nora Knows Nada problem (is scandal too strong a word?). Without knowing you personally I am not a surprised as you seem to be that someone might 'mistake' you for an asshat.

    If you weren't Nora, my apologies and I guess I only heard the accusations, not the response.

    1. That you only heard the accusations and not the response was by design. It was timed for when I was just about to leave Korea for a very long time, it was coupled with my email being hacked into and a threat of blackmail, and was followed by my blog being turned into a spambot such that I was locked out of it for several weeks. At some point early on I knew I could not win no matter how much truth was on my side, and I decided for the time being to play opossum. And then, though this was not part of the plan, a life-shattering incident happened that completely derailed everything I'd been working on and, for a while, blogging just lost all its importance.

      Nevertheless, I have addressed it, and I'll repost what I'd hoped would be my final word on the matter:

      You can comment all you want on my blogs, but you are henceforth going to dispense with personal attacks on me, including accusations that I am taking money from any organization or that I am using "socks." To make this as clear as I can, I do not use socks. I do not comment on K-blogs except as this userid. I am not the physical person who has been writing as Nora Sumi Park (or any combination of that name). I am not the physical person who has been writing as Sonagi (or any combination of that name). Were I, for whatever reason, compelled to write using a different userid than this, I would make sure that the owner of that blog knew exactly who I am. I have chosen, in general, to simply ignore such public accusations, just as I have done with other ad hominem attacks on me or my character that have sprouted from online forums. This policy is based on similar personal attacks I've faced stretching back to the 1990s. I have no obligation to respond to people whom I don't know personally who have been engineering — through email hacking, attempts at blackmail, getting my blog shut down, and other methods — a well-orchestrated smear campaign because I have offended them and/or their views. I have openly and frankly discussed such online attacks with all people whom I know outside the blog (which is a lot of K-blog people) who had bothered to ask me about it in private, but if people want to believe an accusation filled with inaccurate premises and conclusions that they are not clever enough to see through, then that is their problem not mine. Only when it crosses the line of physical or other threats to my person — which it has — would I make an attempt to deal with it, but that attempt would be offline, not online.

    2. Don't start what you can't finish :p An alien has possessed the body of Kushibo :p

  2. My apologies, then.

    I should note that in my comment above I said, "I have grown to like your blog...
    ". This was in spite of my belief that that you had committed a youthful indiscretion and sock-puppetted. If this is not the case, I can enjoy your blog even more comfortably now.

  3. Whoops! LastnameKim posted a comment but I inadvertently hit DELETE instead of PUBLISH. I'm simply reposting it myself below, but if he came along and resent it, that would be even better:

    On a different note, does anybody know if it's allowed to sit in that chair next to the statue and take a pic? Or would that be somehow in bad taste or offensive? Also, I don't know how taking a picture of the statue would have to do with any terror threat they received. 

    1. They cite "terror" as a convenient explanation. There was a Japanese "activist" the tried to deface the monument. And since then, Korean police have been on alert.


Share your thoughts, but please be kind and respectful. My mom reads this blog.