Korea, Urban Walking
Comments 10

Packing Death (Scene from a Stroll #6)

Thursday and Friday mornings find me trudging towards N______ Middle School, a walk of about 45 minutes, a few minutes less if I’m in a good mood. It’s almost always 45.

My main school (which also starts with “N” — let’s call the other one N2) is bad enough; N2, with its enormous classes of obnoxious and unruly energy vampires, the lack of rapport with my co-teachers and the bleak Fortress of Solitude in which I lock myself between lessons, is at present the worst place on the planet for me. If there’s any reason to like Thursdays and Fridays, it’s that the two-day payoff of freedom, fresh air and purpose is close at hand.

But let’s not get too bleak. These S.F.A.S.s are meant to be light relief! Let’s just enjoy the perfect confluence of two backpack-toting units of young males, five minutes short of the dank hallways of N2:

On the left, three of N2’s finest, the embodiment of Korea’s bright and shining future. On the right, their own future: 21 months of compulsory military service, enforced separation (presumably) from their cotton wool-padded world of computer games, “PC rooms”, surgically attached phones, weekends in bed, cram schools, and late-night TV.

I got to N2 early that morning.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Mm… Military service. Wonder what it entails in Korea? For me it nearly turned me into an alcoholic! Nothing is embraced more in the military over here than booze. By the way, that’s a great photo and I’m always intrigued by crowd picture where you can’t see a face. It usually adds something that a head on shot wouldn’t.

    • I have a feeling it’s a pretty sweet ride over here…just a feeling. But they take a very dim view of people trying to shirk it – pop stars etc – and in one case even deported one celeb who weaselled out!

      I think this shot works quite well because of its symmetry. I certainly don’t like pointing cameras at soldiers from the front!

  2. rivron says

    Military service! If your stereotype is accurate (and it sounds accurate!) then I wonder how long it takes after the 21 months to revert to type? Or is it a seriously life-changing experience?

    • Well, I have to say that for all their quirks, and there are many, a “grown up” Korean male is usually a totally different animal to what I encounter daily in the language farms. They’re much, much quieter, for example. I sort of wonder if it’s all part of the scheme: let them be/do whatever they want (within limits) while they’re teens, because it all comes to a dramatic conclusion once they slip on the camo trousers.

  3. I agree with strawberry patch about the energy vamps ;). Good question from rivron: enquiring minds want to know!

    • Don’t remind me about the E.V.s — I’m trying to rouse the enthusiasm to walk out the door and face another week with them! At least I have no first-years this week (they’re prepping for an English speaking test, so there’s absolutely no need for, say, an English teacher)…

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