Korea, Urban Walking
Comments 6

As I Went Out One Evening (Scene from a Stroll #10)

Travelling there [in the mainstream] was really boring so I headed for the ditch. It was a rough ride but I met more interesting people there ~ Neil Young

It’s instructional if occasionally depressing to pay attention to the roadside in Korea (Japan too, for that matter) when you’re out walking. The amount of trash that ends up there is phenomenal; in the countryside, farm edges, ditches and embankments, particularly on mountain backroads, often function as useful spots to drive out, haul your old TVs, toasters — damn, even fridges — from the trunk or truck tray, and hurl them into the undergrowth before heading home, job done.

On this late afternoon I was winding up a workday with a stroll in the rice paddies between the rising new suburb of Yulha and Big Ass Mountain (featured in the previous post). Looking down, I was taken aback to see the whole embankment between road and paddies — I’m talking many, many metres — littered with garbage.

What really stood out was the toys, a great heap of brightly coloured plastic: building blocks, cars, dolls, doll houses, water pistols, handguns and machine-guns, all the garish sweat-shop junk kids enjoy for a few months these days before it’s landfill. After gasping, I believe I smiled, sorta.

Imagine the scene. Daddy offers to help out the missus with the spring cleaning. Loads little Minji’s — or Ginsu’s — last-season playroom detritus into a box, throws it into the car, lights a smoke, and drives out into the country. Gets out, looks both ways — or maybe doesn’t — and carries it to the roadside, heaves it all over, wipes his hands, lights up, stands there a few minutes enjoying the quiet and the crisp country air of dusk. Drives home.

Job done.

I moved on, rounded a bend, looked down, stopped dead in my tracks. A dreadful shock, a What the f…! Then a delicious thrill, as I leapt down into the ditch, already firing up the camera, chuckling, shaking my head.

Imagine the scene…


~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Now that’s something I’ve never seen lying on the side of the road. Did you think at first glance it was the remains of a mob hit? I would have!

    Is there no form of recycling over there? White goods in the bush? It sounds nuts.

    I guess they don’t have the landfill areas or it’s too expensive to dispose of stuff? So many questions, so little time…

    • I was definitely taken aback, Greg — and I’m someone who’s seen a TON of weird stuff on roadsides (and lugged a lot of it home)! It creeped me out but also disgusted me and made me burst out laughing. Talk about conflicted!

      I can’t work out the recycling system here. In the office, paper seems to be recycled – it’s separated anyway. And cans & bottles. But in my apartment building at least, I was told when I moved in there’s no recycling. I separate my stuff anyway wen I put the bags out. On the streets, forget it. You’re ahead if you can find any kind of garbage bin. They do have this phenomenon of old people (usually women) prowling the streets scavenging for old cardboard boxes etc, which are flattened and chucked in a cart, presumably to be sold off to some kind of recycling outfit for a bit of pocket money. But I think for a lot of people it’s just easy to take a drive into the country…

  2. Darius Russell says

    Gee, Goat, I hope you performed mouth-to-mouth…err, hip-to-mouth, as needed.

    Sadly, the number of window display model fatalities these days are rampant. Epidemic, really. Used for years to pose the latest fashions, and then tragically discarded on a roadside somewhere!! A social malady of the highest disorder on our Earth these days.

    I just hope you were able to notify the authorities…those poor parents and relatives of the missing display model.

    …Shame on our society!! SHAME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Darius, I know what you mean. And this young lady was, well — no easy way to say it — a little on the heavier side. Last year’s model, to be sure. Not the right look at all in K-Pop-obsessed Korea with its broomstick-thin waifs setting the style agenda.

      On the plus side we got kinda friendly as I revisited her a few times. Ended up asking for her hand — it’s now siting in my apartment.

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