Unspeakable Neighbor

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A police car approached two loud, inebriated men just outside our apartment. I was awakened by the police car loudspeaker. I could't get a good shot because I was in my room. Right after the police left, they were noisy again.

A police car approached two loud, inebriated men just outside our apartment. I was awakened by the police car loudspeaker. I could’t get a good shot because I was in my room. Right after the police left, they were noisy again.






















I'm supposed to be talking about how my family’s Chuseok celebration was, but I just can’t let the incident that took place tonight pass. In fact, I’m still shaken at the moment.

My husband and I were in the computer room. He was reading a comic book and I was typing. My parents-in-law were in their room, sound asleep. The neighborhood was quiet, except for the occasional giggling, guffawing and swearing of the teenagers smoking in the parking lot, which can be heard from our window. Someone was singing hysterically while his friends were laughing. My husband and I thought the singing was hilarious, so we also laughed. Soon, our candid singer left with his friends, and it was quiet again. After a while, we heard someone saying “sh*bal” (the F-word in Korean). It isn't unusual to hear Koreans say that word. We hear that a lot from teeanagers hanging out in the parking lot outside our apartment. It's sort of a friendly expression to them. Some drunk ajossis and ajummas (middle-aged men and women in Korea) like to say that word, too.

We didn’t pay attention to the cursing until it got louder and louder. I could no longer concentrate on what I was doing, so I muttered, “시끄러!” (Noisy!) The noise became more disturbing when a woman screamed and another one was crying for help. My husband jumped from his seat and went out of the house to see what was going on. The noise was coming from the entrance of our apartment. We live on the first floor, a few feet away from the entrance, so we could hear everything. The noise woke up my parents-in-law. Omonim (mother-in-law) went out of their bedroom and told us not to go out, but my husband barely heard her. I followed my husband outside.

At the entrance, a woman was lying on the floor. I suppose she was hurt. Another woman was screaming at a young man. It was obvious that the man was drunk. He kept shouting and cursing at the women. When we saw him kick the woman who was lying on the floor and attempting to kick the other woman who was trying to stop him, we called his attention. My husband said, “야!” (Hey!). I think that he was about to confront the man, but the woman who was trying to stop the intoxicated young man was telling my husband it’s all right, they’re okay. When the man realized that we were attempting to intervene, he stared fiercely at us and bawled, “왜?” (Why?) I told him I was going to call the police. The woman who was trying to stop him said that won’t be necessary, but the man would not stop shouting and he was attacking the woman who was defending him. “That’s it! I’m calling the police now!” As I was saying this in English, I was making the phone gesture. The woman was yelling at me, “하지마!” (I don’t know why she was defending that scum.) I was already raising my voice, so my husband took me inside the house before getting myself into trouble. My husband called the police and told them to hurry up. We didn’t go out anymore, but we watched through the window. The cursing and shouting continued until the police arrived.

My husband waited for the police to come before he went out. He told me that the woman who was trying to stop me from calling the police is the man’s aunt. The other woman is also a relative. We don’t know what really happened. We don’t actually care about their family problem, but as neighbors who witnessed the commotion, somehow we felt responsible for the welfare of the two women who were physically assaulted by a man whose brain had shrank from too much alcohol.

My husband and I have seen Koreans quarrel in public many times, but we have never seen a man physically assault a woman until tonight. It was inexcusable. I am sure that some of our neighbors heard the cursing, screams and cry for help, but none of them did anything about it. Their ignoring the whole thing is also inexcusable. Nobody called the police but my husband. The police just stopped the fight and left right away, but a few hours after the incident, I heard them talking over a loud speaker. They were giving warning to two other drunk men who were shouting and swearing.



From Korea with Love




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