Sunday, November 25, 2007

Demonstration in Guui

Curt is out of town for nine days so I made the track into Seoul (Guui Station) myself for the very first time. I got onto the bus to Seoul as we do every Saturday only to find that it was standing room only. This has NEVER happened before. If you knew the way Korean bus drivers drive you would understand when I say I was scared for my life. The stops which jar you out of your seat are even more terrifying when standing. When they take a curve, they seem to accelerate and I'm always surprised the bus doesn't end up on it's side. I hung on the overhead bar for dear life and prayed the entire 1 hour and 15 minutes it took to arrive at Gangnum Station. I was also "thrilled" that the bus driver had the heat blasting at 90 degrees so I was also dripping in sweat by the time the ride ended. The windows were so fogged you couldn't see out. There are quite a few stops before my station and I was "lucky" enough to snag a seat two stops before I needed to get off.

Then it was off to the subway. The subway is always packed at Gangnum Station on a Saturday morning but what was unbelievable was that is was packed (like sardines) all the way to Guui Station where I got off. I did again manage a seat about 2-3 stops from where I had to get off. I had to push and shove my way off the subway or I would have missed my stop. Could my luck get any worse?!

I grabbed a bagel sandwich at Dunkin Donuts near the maedeup shop and started walking to class when I saw a pickup truck with a huge sound system in the back with a bunch of Koreans walking across the street from me. The loud speaker was blaring and the demonstrators were chanting. The gray coats in the picture are police.

I snapped a couple of pictures. Never leave your home in Korea without your camera!

A sea of gray down the street caught my eye and I saw at least one hundred police offices in riot gear heading towards the demonstrators.

They were all dressed exactly alike. Koreans came out of their businesses to watch the excitement.

Here the police are moving towards the demonstrators. I thought we would see a riot. Police and demonstrators clashing and here I was with camera in hand to catch all the action. My adrenalin was pumping and I couldn't wait for the confrontation. Would the demonstrators get into a shouting match with the police, would they throw rocks, would they shove the police, would the police use tear gas, would there be arrests...

It ended without incident. Incredibly the demonstrators stopped shouting and chanting and walked off quietly as the police filed by them. I think the message from the police was received loud and clear.

The police than filed into these buses that were waiting around the corner. I was going to be late for class so I left after about 5 minutes.
I thought that this would be my last close encounter with the police but it wasn't. This morning, I was waiting at a busy intersection with two heavy bags of groceries (when will I learn). The light changed and it was our turn to walk. I picked up my bags and proceeded into the intersection along with a host of others. All of the sudden out of the corner of my eye, a car comes zooming around the corner. He slammed on his brakes and I dropped my bags thinking I was going to die. He stopped about 6 inches from me and when I looked to see who the moron was, I was surprised to see it was the police. They shook their heads and gave me a dirty look. Well excuse me! I picked up my two bags and proceeded to walk home. Thank goodness I didn't buy any eggs.


Helena said...

Whew! What a day. Sorry you missed your class. And that bus ride does sound miserable.

I was in KwangJu during the annual May 18 student demo/riot back in '92, right on the edges of the tear-gassing. It wasn't anything like full strength but it was still pretty bad. We had to spend the night at the church (sleeping on the floor) because the demo was blocking the bridge that we needed to cross to get home. I'd only been in the country for about two weeks at that point. Wheee!

CreekHiker said...

Becky, Wow, you're living on the edge with hubby out of town!

Did you celebrate Thanksgiving at all? I know the kids missed you!


Becky said...

Helena: I'm soooo glad I have a different bus to take. The only drawback is that it puts us two subway stops further away from Guui but it also runs every 2 minutes. No problem.

Holly: I did go to a clay shop and out to dinner with Ji Young. Today I got a call from my two other girlfriends and we going out to dinner tomorrow since I was busy Thanksgiving. Curt comes home Friday! WooHoo!

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