[LEARNING CURVE]Children’s game a real pain in the rearThere are aspects of Korean culture that present difficulties for foreigners, but there is one particular unsavory episode that occurred not long after I came to Seoul two years ago that I will never really be able to come to terms with. I have struggled to erase the gruesome memories of the horrific treatment.
It was not long before noon, and the early summer sun was a joyous contrast to the miserably rainy Irish springtime I had left behind a few weeks earlier. I had spent my early days in Korea sampling the delights of dakgalbi and soju and mildly embarrassing nights in the noraebang, marveling at the varied delights of my first journey to Asia. But these inspiring memories left me unprepared for society’s darker element.
The attack came from behind. There was no warning, and it was performed with a practiced and premeditated efficiency that can only be born from a wealth of past experience. I was completely stunned. I wheeled around in shock to challenge the malicious predator and demand some kind of explanation for this obscenity. But as I turned to face him and looked downward, all that confronted me was the evil and mocking laughter of a 6-year-old Korean boy.
That was not the last occasion where I found myself on the wrong end of a decidedly unpleasant version of Korean hospitality: the game of dongchim, the practice of clasping two hands together in the shape of a pistol and using the protruding fingers to jam an unsuspecting victim in the bum. It’s a particular favorite of young Korean children. And, unfortunately, visiting English teachers provide ample targets.
Obviously, having the opportunity to embarrass somebody ― especially a teacher from a strange country ― is a good enough reason to play the game. But to stick your fingers in someone else’s rear to achieve this seems to be particularly unhygienic, and results in the perpetrator also having to eat their mid-morning dried squid with the same hands.
As teachers, our only wish is to impart our knowledge without being poked by degenerate kindergarten sadists. Has the time not come for children to put their hands in their pockets and not posteriors?
Thankfully, my time in the kindergarten classroom has ended, but I know that there are many more out there who have to live with this trauma. In the name of humanity, stop dongchim now before someone suffers irreparable trauma. Please, bring an end to this brutish onslaught and let us teach in peace once again.
by Robert O’Dwyer