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
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.
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?