Expat Still Living
Matt Lamers, the man at the Korea Herald who asked me to write a language column for the paper, invited all of us Expat-Living writers to a Saturday afternoon meal on the patio of Watts on Tap, near Yonsei University, at four o'clock, and I arrived a little after four to find Matt waiting on the street, his left arm in a sling.
"What happened?" I asked.
"I got stabbed," he replied.
I truly hadn't expected that. "Stabbed? Really? With a knife?"
"No," Matt explained, "with a broken bottle."
At it turns out, Matt and another editor were sitting in a park near Hongdae a couple of weeks ago, and two [sic., three] college-aged Korean men approached them and threatened to kill them. Matt and his friend had laughed, thinking it a joke, but the two [sic., three] men attacked, and one of them broke a bottle and stabbed Matt in the arm.
That particular injury was 'accidental.' The man had aimed for Matt's chest, but Matt had raised his arm in self-defense. Otherwise, I might be without an editor.
Matt didn't bother to report the 'incident' to the police even though he'd lost a bit of blood, had seen three taxis refuse to help, and had endured the first hospital that he'd visited do little but send him on to another hospital.
"Why didn't you report it?" I asked.
"I've written enough articles about police inaction when foreigners are attacked that I knew nothing would be done," he explained.
I knew what he meant. When Koreans are attacked, the police do little, and even less for foreigners. Later in the evening, when I told Sun-Ae, she was indignant but also reluctant to believe that the police could be so unreliable. I reminded her of the 12-year-old girl attacked in an elevator whose ordeal had been captured on film, yet the police had done nothing until President Lee Myung-bak had reprimanded them when the video had become publicly available on the internet.
I then gave my opinion. "The old Confucian social ethic is almost gone, and nothing has replaced it except a sense of narrow, intolerant nationalism, so you see this sort of violence against foreigners."
I'm sure that there's more to it. My wife says the young people are simply empty-headed...
UPDATE: Matt Lamers has posted his own telling of the attack at Dave's ESL Cafe. Note also the report by Bart Schaneman, the man with Matt at the time of the attack, in the comments to this Gypsy Scholar blog entry.