Posted by: bodking | March 3, 2011

Brawling in the Streets

Although I have drastically cut back on my alcohol consumption, I still find myself out on Bar Street from time to time.  One of the things that has been most shocking about living in Gunsan is the number of fights in the streets and in the bars.

I’ve been to more than my share of bars back in New York, many of which weren’t patronized by the most reputable of characters – but I have seen more fights in the past eleven months here than I had in the previous 8 years in New York.

The fighting is usually amongst the Koreans themselves – in fact the most memorable ones are large groups of Koreans gathering for a drunken taekwondo inspired kicking session.  But it’s not unheard of to see Chinese immigrants, U.S. Air Force personnel, and the English teachers having a good swing at one another.

Like I said, the most memorable fights have been amongst large groups of Koreans.  I remember emerging from my least favorite bar at 4am with a splitting headache to behold a Korean-American screaming at a taxi driver.  Some people tried to drag him away while other people were confronting him.  He eventually was dragged away and the taxi went on its way, but that didn’t stop all these others – who probably had never met before involving themselves in this conflict – from continuing the fight.  The drunken screaming gave way to drunken pushing which – of course – gave way to drunken tawkwondo.  The climax was when two girls my friend and I had been hitting on ran from way up the street to get involved and were immediately involved in girl-on-girl action.  This went on for about three minutes before it ended as suddenly – and pointlessly – as it began.

There was a time where I’d see at least two fights a week.  Korean girls pulling each other’s hair, G.I.s passed out and bleeding on the street, throwing drinks in bartenders’ faces, pulling chairs out from under someone then hitting with the same chair, but mostly just drunk pushing.

The police never gets involved.  I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing.  Koreans in general don’t have a high-esteem for their governmental institutions and the police are generally seen as incompetent.   And in a lot of situations they are – Confucianism makes it difficult, if not impossible, for a younger police officer to control anyone older than himself, especially when that older person is drunk.  A lot of Korean police officers are college-age men doing their national service, so most situations are beyond their control.

I’ve asked other people in Korea if Seoul or Daegu or Busan has the same propensity for flying fists as Gunsan – they all have said ‘no’  – so I don’t know if I’m just lucky and happen to see every fight that’s gone down in the last year or if there’s something about this town.


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