Holy rolling down the road in a Seoul taxi

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Holy rolling down the road in a Seoul taxi

A lot of taxi drivers in Korea can be rude. But some of them are truly concerned for their passengers’ comfort. Some are even more concerned about passengers’ religious salvation.
A couple of weeks ago I got into a cab and the first question the driver asked wasn’t “Where to, Miss?” but “Do you go to church?”
“No,” I said, “but my parents taught me to respect the doctrines of all religions.”
Then the driver launched into a fervent 20-minute sermon on how I would burn in hell if I didn’t accept Jesus Christ as my savior. He ended the speech by saying, “And that goes for your parents, too. You don’t want them to go to hell, do you?”
“No,” I timidly replied.
“Then save them!”
While religious zeal is not unique to Korea, I’ve never been fond of the pesky-salesman method of pressuring people into going to church. Weary of hearing the same old lecture, I protested to the taxi driver that I do know what the Bible says. With a disapproving shake of his head, he said, “It’s not enough to know; you’ve got to believe.”
Then he handed me two laminated newspaper clippings. He cited these articles as “evidence” that Jesus was watching over us. I hoped so, since the driver wasn’t looking at the road at all anymore.
The first article showed an image of Jesus floating in the sky over Africa in the 1990s. The driver, still not watching the road, said the picture was not computer generated. He said thousands reported seeing the Christ image.
“See, Jesus is crying because he is pained by the heresy of people.” I half expected him to add, “people like you.”
The second photo was more disturbing. It showed the dissected brain of a serial killer. Supposedly, a satanic symbol found growing in his brain was evidence that the man had been possessed by Satan to kill.
A mixture of guilt and wonder stirred in me during the ride. I felt guilty because I don’t attend church and I knew that no matter how much he proselytized, I wouldn’t be swayed. But I couldn’t help but marvel at the fiery sincerity of his words. He really missed his calling.
Still, I was never in a greater hurry to leave a cab. Without meeting his eyes, I gathered my change, which came with a little slip of paper promoting the man’s church. Just as I was about to shut the door, he called out, “Miss, I hope to see you in heaven!”


by Sarah Kim

Ms. Kim is an intern at the JoongAng Daily.
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