Sordid tales of the subway from Korea’s first female station manager
In the book, “At Which Exit Should We Meet?” published in October, the former station manager and current head of public relations at Incheon Metro reflects on her four years as head of Incheon Bus Terminal Station from 1999 to 2003.
In a recent interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily, Cho shared tales of her first lawsuit, subway bathrooms and the challenges of being a woman in authority.
Q. Did you ever face discrimination for being a female station manager?
A. Before my time, there was a welfare law that forbade women to work shift jobs. After the regulation was eased, I was able to become the first female station manager in Korea.
Over the years, I’ve had to deal with many passengers and their various complaints. A lot of the times when older men came into my office to complain and found out I was a woman, they just left. .?.?. Maybe it was a pride thing, where they felt like sissies complaining to a woman. I guess it had its advantages and disadvantages.
Which area in subway stations has the most crises or unexpected events?
Oddly enough, women’s bathrooms. There were so many unexpected happenings there - illegal smoking, candid cameras, fights. You name it and it’s probably happened in a women’s bathroom.
In your book, you write about your first lawsuit during your years as Incheon Bus Terminal manager.
There was a big wedding, and I thought it would be a nice, cultural event for the station, so I agreed to let the wedding company hold the event there. There were a lot of ropes and ribbons, and one man in his 60s tripped on a rope and broke three front teeth. We paid to have his teeth fixed, but a year later he came barging into my office demanding expensive tooth implants. He sued us, but the case was dismissed. I learned that generosity isn’t always recognized.
What do you think about public etiquette and the culture surrounding public transit in Korea?
Regarding the culture on public transport, I think there are a lot of things that can be improved. One journalist from a rail magazine in Germany came here two months ago and asked me why there is hardly anyone who reads books on the subway. He said he had never seen so many people looking at their cell phones at once. It was a bit embarrassing to hear that but I do think public etiquette on subways is improving gradually. I have hope.
By Cho Jae-eun [firstname.lastname@example.org]