Don’t let the rare murder scare you“I’m afraid of the Burger King in Itaewon,” says a commenter on the online message board of the TV network MBC. “I’m afraid so much that when I go there, I don’t go to the bathroom, even if it’s an emergency.”
“I work at the Itaewon Burger King, but I’m really really scared to death,” says another. “I don’t want to clean the bathroom.”
And another says, “Aren’t Itaewon’s streets scary?”
The bathroom at Burger King frightens people because of the 1997 murder there of a Hongik University student, a horrible and senseless act committed by at least one of two Americans ― Edward Lee, a Korean American, and Arthur Patterson, the son of an officer in the U.S. Army. Some reports say the Americans briefly quarreled with the victim, Cho Joong-pil, before they followed him into the men’s bathroom and attacked him, while others say the two killed Mr. Cho just to show off to their friends.
MBC put together an hour-long program about the case, decrying that the two Americans, though initially convicted and sentenced to prison terms, were eventually freed on appeal by Korea’s Supreme Court.
The show runs regularly on a local cable channel, prompting netizens to perpetuate the BK-phobia via MBC’s message board and throughout Korean cyberspace.
For the record, the bathroom in which the Burger King killing occurred no longer exists. The store added a second floor a year or so after the incident, demolishing the original first-floor restrooms and building new ones upstairs in the process.
Nevertheless, now another murder has occurred in the neighborhood, which may compel people to add local hip-hop shops to the phobia list. On Dec. 6, a 29-year-old woman, the owner of a store located down the alley from the Underground Market that sold clothes to African traders, was killed during a robbery. Last week, police arrested and charged with the murder a Nigerian man who’d been working in factories here for about a year. Evidently they caught him after tracing the trail of checks he allegedly stole from the victim, then spent.
This column won’t argue that Itaewon isn’t a dangerous place. People should in fact be aware that it attracts dodgy types, so a little Web-generated fear may have its good side. Indeed, many violent crimes committed in the area go unmentioned in the media ― particularly rapes of foreigners, which the police seem lax about reporting.
But hey, let’s take a break from the Web-spread hysteria and look at this from a different perspective, using statistics.
Now, Itaewon gets a murder about every year or two. But according to the latest data, Korea averages one murder every nine hours. Statistics show, then, that Itaewon is safer than the whole country.
So you can relax, netizens, and enjoy your Whoppers and french fries.
by Mike Ferrin