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[PERSPECTIVE]Serving kebabs in Korea is no picnic

July 11,2007
Khaled al Shaer and Adnan
It’s not easy to interview the men who run the busy kebab stand tucked into a corner between two buildings across from the Hamilton Hotel in Itaewon.
One of them, an Iraqi who goes by the name Adnan, was only able to talk for a few moments before being interrupted by a crowd of Indian men demanding their kebabs be “spicy, very spicy.”
“Many people in Iraq don’t know Korea, but my friend tell me business is good here,” said Adnan, turning to slice the spiced meat from the rotating spit. He has been in Korea for 10 months and speaks both Korean and English with difficulty.
Khaled al Shaer, a Jordanian who manages the tiny stand, stepped in to translate for Adnan.
The Iraqi continued serving the growing crowd of people while speaking in Arabic.
Al Shaer’s English and Korean are both well-oiled.
“He says he was not happy to leave Iraq,” said al Shaer, passing warmed pita bread to Adnan, who smeared them with spicy sauce.
“But he is happy to be safe. He is planning to bring his family here.”
By this time the line had stretched around the corner, people of all colors and cultures enticed by the smell of roasting meat wafting down the street, and al Shaer had to focus his full attention on helping Adnan.
“It was a hard time to start this restaurant, but now it has a great name in all of Seoul,” said al Shaer proudly, after an extended flurry of activity that mostly cleared the line.
“It is really hard to make this kind of food. But when we give the kebabs we feel happy, like we’ve done something good for this place.”


By Richard Scott-Ashe



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