seams of organic matter


On the way to school today I ran into a funeral party. A man in a suit, about 15 years older than me, was carrying a child and weeping uncontrollably. He was followed by women in hanbok. I guess here in the country they still wear traditional white for funerals, unlike the black you see in Seoul. It registered as odd, so early in the morning; no cemetery nearby.

Later, my co-teacher uncharacteristically shared some news with me. “Did you hear?” (as if) “They found bodies behind the school!”

My first thought was “Great. I guess I’ve been too cavalier, walking home from the subway at night. Only to hear, “They were from the 50’s though.”

So, these mountains are still spewing forth remains of the war. And sons of men missing in action are grieving fresh wounds, while the deceased’s parents have long been interred.

The chilling sound of shovels scraping the earth has been going on all day long, as crews of young infantry turn all the ground around the school searching for any further remains.

*****

This past weekend I went with a friend to a lecture on the history of military camptown prostitution. The U.S. military’s representative made a point to condemn the exploitation of E-6 (entertainment class) Visa workers who migrated/were brought here only to be exploited by the sex industry and qualified how he tells the troops that this is participating in human trafficking/slavery. However, there was no mention of any consequences for ignoring these enlightened training sessions. Similarly, the Korean government outlaws prostitution yet has no laws against human trafficking, nor are the sponsors of these “entertainers” held accountable for their charges breaking/being forced to break the law. This is how it has been since the Japanese occupation, and how it will continue to be, because it just doesn’t pay to stop these practices – in fact it it would be a deep cut to the Korean economy. It’s all good as long as there are other services that can be taxed and these areas can be euphemistically be labeled anything but the red light districts they are.

*****

Less than two weeks ago Korea made world news again with the decision to chemically castrate a pedophile. But I know pedophiles. Testosterone is not what it’s about, though a reduction of it might damper violence. It’s about feeling impotent. It’s about control. It’s about the thrill of someone being weaker than yourself.

*****

I’m feeling so impotent right now. And yet, I’m not releasing my frustration by killing people or dehumanizing people or manipulating children, or violating rights or bodies, and stealing innocence. But this madness never ends. And there are so many casualties left and right. This is our legacy and it is so often not a gift. There is being and then there are bone fragments. Dog tags amid the detritus.

Maybe we should all get dog tags. Just in case…

*****

Am feeling the weight of Korean history today – indirect product that I am. I still don’t know how to make sense of it in my life. Korea’s history is so not personally mine, yet its events had everything to do with me having no history. It can really unsettle a person; turn you into a lunatic, if you think about it too long.

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2 thoughts on “seams of organic matter

  1. You actually bring up a question I’ve been contemplating for quite a while myself, so I’d like to ask your opinion without meaning any offense nor hard,

    What exactly keeps Korean people going in life? China always had individual pride and family pride. Japan had peace and order and sense of community to uphold and take pride in. But, Korea, besides Hyundai and Samsung in the past few years, has indeed been quite identity and heritage-free. I feel that the huge vanity problem roots heavily in that lack of cultural pride/much of heritage, as well as a huge mindless following of Christianity for no apparent reason.

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