Keep an eye out ― Big Sister’s watchingIn case you forgot, Big Brother is watching you. Yes, his closed-circuit TV surveillance systems are everywhere ― at the supermarket, the bank, your apartment building, your favorite toilet stall. So beware.
Except in Itaewon, that is ― where you don’t need to worry as much about Big Brother as Big Sister.
Anyone walking down an Itaewon street anytime after dark is probably being surveilled by a hostess bar proprietress or her girl scouts, via means electronic. Big Sister’s CCTV cameras are especially common around the King Club, outside bars like Indian Joe’s, Moulin Rouge, Nymph and Starbutts.
Inside Starbutts, the owner, Yeong-eun, an Asian version of Raquel Welch who favors leopard-print halter tops, is never far from her door-adjacent monitors. To Young-eun, the only thing more important than entertaining customers is upping the customer count. So even when she’s busy charming her in-bar admirers, her eyes keep darting back to the screens, watching for potential customers. If she sees a prospect, she’ll launch her rocket body out the door and invite him in ― usually by saying something this newspaper won’t print. If she sees a suspect, she’ll let him pass by unmolested.
What does Yeong-eun look for when separating the prospects from the suspects? “Money,” she said. How can she spot it? “I don’t know ― I just can.” Though her monitors are black and white and their images a tad blurry, she’s able to identify fat-walleted walkers at 100 meters.
While Yeong-eun insisted she uses no hard guidelines when sizing up Itaewon pedestrians, she acknowledged that she does practice racial profiling.
Asked if she invites Koreans into Starbutts, she said, “No, almost never. Usually when they walk by here at night they’re drunk, and if they come inside they cause problems.”
How about the South Asians who live up near the mosque? “No ― they’re nice, but they just complain about the prices, then leave.” All other ethnic types, evidently, are fair game.
Speaking of games, a Starbutts patron, a 30-year-old American businessman named Chris, remarked that two can play at this one. “Why not have CCTV cameras inside the juicy bars, and stream the video on the Internet?” he said. “Then, before going out, we guys could check out the atmosphere of each bar, to save time in searching for the right one.”
Told how unlikely that idea was, Chris dreamed up another: “Well then somebody could start a ‘Juicy Cam’ Web site. He could equip a hat or a briefcase with a camera, then go to the various juicy bars depending on instructions he’d get from the site’s users, who would communicate with him using the wireless Internet or cell phone text messages, to capture and stream video in realtime.”
In a perfect world, perhaps. One even George Orwell would have liked.
by Mike Ferrin