Beach & Coastal Walking, Korea, Urban Walking
Comments 8

A Korean Soap Opera

It was all happening down at the Jagalchi Fish Market that day.

The purveyors of fish, shellfish, crustacea and as-yet-unnamed marine invertebrates were doing a brisk trade, this being the Independence Movement Day holiday:

Everyone on the outside of the glass seemed to be having a good time…

..and all manner of folk were enjoying the colour, smells and action:

Well, maybe not the smells, in my case. I’d slipped though the jammed passageways with the Sony Nex a few times, firing off shots from hip height when I saw the chance, in mortal terror that one of the fishmongers would spot me, blow my cover, and slap me senseless with a half-metre pike.

But I’d made it through the gauntlet undetected, and it was time for some fresh air, so I headed right out to the wharves…

..for some breathing space…

..where the stallholders were fewer…

..and men confided in statues:

At the water’s edge, there was far more of a men’s club atmosphere, the usual crowd of wharf rats squandering their holiday with rod and line…

..or a morning jolt of something fortifying:

For some, it was a place of quiet contemplation…

..for others, a place for ruthless bargaining.

Enter the cutthroat world…

..of the soap salesman:

I don’t how much profit there could possibly be in selling bars of what looked suspiciously like Sard Wonder Soap from back home — but it was a hell of a performance, and the audience was rapt.

And this was a tough crowd:

The routine went on and on and on, and when I infiltrated the crowd of spectators he was just removing the black print from some advertising on a plastic shopping bag with a few deft strokes of the magic bar and some mangy toothbrushes.

Then he moved on to some blackened kitchen pots: a few smears of soap, and what’s the Korean for just like new?

This was the climax of the greatest show in town. A few hands slipped into pockets. Money was exchanged. I was very happy for him, and almost applauded:

Meanwhile, just a little further along the docks, a poor beast was no doubt pondering the cruel vicissitudes of fortune, tethered as it was to the chair of a sock salesman, presumably for the amusement of tourists like myself:

I don’t know if it was injured, but it certainly made a couple of valiant attempts to fly free while I was nearby. And then one of nature’s most cunning predators ambled, with a cold, bloodthirsty nonchalance, onto the stage:

Surely in all of nature there is no enmity more bitter than that between the seagull and the dachshund. The stage was set for a vicious encounter — but just before feathers or, more likely, fur flew, a fellow tourist intervened and the time-bomb was diffused:

I was troubled by the wretched predicament of the gull — can you imagine such a thing being tolerated in a western setting? — and went back to the fishermen where things were more civilised.

As I aimed my camera at a boat, a man wandered over, unzipped, and commenced pissing into the water about 35 centimetres to my right:

And that, dear readers, was my cue to resume my ramble…

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Some really great shots here, Goat, with stunning colour and composition! The theatre of it all…

    The pissing man and fart-sniffing dog reminds us that no subject should be taboo for the true photographer.

    • Ah, spoken like a fellow aesthete, SW!

      Those street shots are very satisfying for me, though they’re much harder bloody work than a nice immobile, impassive rock or tree or ruined building. And the ratio of rejects to keepers is depressingly huge. Still, I persist — in the interests of Truth and Beauty! The public needs to know!

  2. Soap? Are you kidding me?! Nice shots again and I think I’ve worked out the common fashion item over there. Any colour as long as it’s dark blue!

    • Cheers, Greg. Yes, dark blue or black. It’s very dreary — lots of pressure being the only splash of colour in town! Here’s hoping for a psychedelic Spring…

  3. Again, I love the photos and may I say at least in Korea they are treated like grown ups: they are alowed to drink in public.

    The public urination may be a step too far though I suppose one flows(sic) on from the other.

    • Nice punning here, Frank. Yes, a certain deterioration of inhibition kicks in, from what I remember of boozing. And you’re right, but if this scene had happened in Australia it probably would have ended with some glassing.

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