Monday, November 4, 2013

Why do you smile so much-e?

I have had many different jobs in Korea in many different areas: restaurant, finance, automotive, and of course, education...or what passes for English language education in the Land of the Moaning Clam. In fact, what originally brought me to Korea and what originally brought me so much contempt for Koreans was teaching.

I got in trouble once in the first few months that I was in Korea for laughing at an older student...repeatedly. This guy was an ajosshi in his late 30s-early 40s maybe; it's often hard to tell because when an ajosshi hits 28 or so (in regular human years), he is just an ajosshi. His wife hands him to 2 packs of 88s in the morning, and she won't see him until the next morning when she hands him his 2 packs of 88s. The rest of the time consists of smoking said 88s whilst doing some menial "salaryman" work some of the time, sleeping at the desk after lunch,  then getting tanked on that libation that would clean stains off your clothes and rust off your metal if you let it, soju, with those same sad sacks he works with all day....and talk about boring work-related shit.

Now, I smile a lot. I just do; I always have. I think it comes from the increased amount of attention that attractive people receive. The first week of class at the hogwon sees a class equally made up of ajosshi business men in $50-$75 off-the-rack business suits (laughably, some with gold buttons) and university girls from the local women's university. It's like mixing household chemicals together: you get a really toxic mix.

So this guy asks me why I smile so much, this being the first week of class and we are all still getting to know each other, and I reply that life is great, nature is great, everything is groovy in my world, man, all of that. He nods his head in understanding at me, and dons the cringe-worthiest, smarmiest, most horrible pressed lipped smile that haunts me even until this day. Picture the artist Rain as a dried-up 30 something Korean who reeks of cigarettes and underachievement.

I didn't laugh then, but as the month-long class wore on I did...and often, and uncontrollable right in front of him. You see: from that personal revelation of mine that first week through to the last and final class, ajosshi kept that winning smile beaming at me directly at all times, from walking into the classroom, until my exit from the room. There is no way you wouldn't have found that shit amusing.
But I did get reamed out by a Canadian manager who had Korean management reaming him as well. That job didn't result in a second contract.


The range of this guy's acting is impressive. He is able to project so many different and uniquely complex Korean emotions with only his appearance. In the first picture, you have his "I-don't-understand" look. In the second picture, the incomparable "I-STILL-don't-understand." See how he did that, with only glasses as an added prop. This guy IS the Korean wave.


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