The 8th Annual Expat Korea Congress

The true measure of one’s power is not land or money or physical strength.  The true measure of one’s power is control.  As in, how many people one controls.  You say that you are big and rich and powerful and successful and handsome, and that you can hold a 10 kilo kettle bell 90 degrees straight out from your body with your erect penis?  Big deal hot shot, but how many people do you control?  What’s your name, and how many people do you control?  What is the size of your army?  This is what matters; in terms of power; all else is irrelevant.  My name is Jake, and I control an army of 60 loyal expats, how about you?  ….That’s what I thought.  Go back to your kindergarten job, your gym and your dick-stretching kettle bell exercises.  We’re here to talk about man stuff, expat stuff.  Dust off the 21 year old whiskey and bring out the pipe tobacco.

The 8th Annual Expat Congress is coming up next month and myself along with a committee of 19 other members of the Korean expat jet-set glitterati have been neck deep in paperwork, power point slides, and discarded coffee cups.  Deciding on a venue poses a major logistical problem.  That any large scale expat meeting would be held in Itaewon was beyond question.  But which specific venue would be most appropriate for a large scale meeting of high profile expat movers and shakers?  Some place expat-friendly?  That narrows it down to less than 10 venues.  Some place with no upper age restrictions?  Some of my expat brothers have actually survived beyond their 40th year on this frigid peninsula, despite repeated suicide/escape attempts, so age-hostile places like the Gold Bar (no patrons over 40 allowed) are out of the question.

And then we have to consider which places my various friends have been banned from, which is an extra consideration that only people among my particular social group seem to have to address.  You say you’ve been banned from Dave’s ESL café?  Banned from KoreaBang?  Banned from every Koreaboo website on the internet?  Big fucking deal, man.  I have friends who have been physically banned for life from actual brick and mortar businesses in Itaewon.  I have friends who actually have to sign in with captain Kim at the Itaewon police station and register their presence before the soles of their shoes can kiss the pavement in Itaewon.  I have friends with GPS ankle bracelets that start to beep and send signals to the Seoul prosecutor’s office when they get within 3 kilometers of Itaewon’s magic mile.  I actually have to sit and make a list of friends names, and a list of Itaewon businesses, and then draw little lines all over the place to figure out who has been banned from where.  Painstaking work.  Expat problems.

I’ve been tasked with drawing up the meeting agenda, creating a list of topics to be discussed and voted upon by the 8th Annual Expat Congress, the representatives of which have been elected via a Kakaotalk polling application accessible to only the ~200 most influential expats on the peninsula, you know, the people who actually matter (No, you can’t join without an invitation, so don’t ask).  Complex issues such as “Who will be the next cultural ambassador to Itaewon?” will be addressed. I held the position myself for two years, as did my consigliere Johnny Drama.  Who will be next?  Big shoes to fill, lots of hands to shake, lots of people to meet.  Who possesses the required social skills?  Hushed whispers in the jimjilbang hint that someone whose name starts with “S” or “T” or “A” or “C” could be next, but these rumors are unconfirmed.

Next up for discussion is the re-design of the Expat Hell official name cards and stickers.  People always email me asking how they can join the members-only message board on this site.  Basically, it works in the same way that Korean actresses and models get hired, except you don’t have to put anyone’s penis in your mouth.  You see, new recruits are scouted in person, on the mean streets of Itaewon, Seoul, Gyeonggi-do and as far away as Wonju and Busan.  The signature Expat Hell business card is handed over to individuals who have qualified for admission into our gentleman’s social club.  The boss (me) hands a stack of cards to his underboss, who in turn distributes them to his caporegimes, who in turn pass them on to their soldiers who go out on the streets and into expat friendly places in search of new associates.  It’s all rather complicated.  Think of it as receiving Willy Wonka’s golden ticket.  You don’t choose membership, the membership chooses you.

Additional topics for discussion are the renovation of the Expat Hell World Headquarters on the 6th floor of the Hamilton hotel (room 602).  The room has been handed down from expat to expat over the generations, and frankly is in dire need of a full restoration lest anyone’s mistress complain of roaches or cigarette smoke or plastic bags full of long-used condoms hanging from cheap plastic hangers in the closet.  Which shady contractor will be used for the renovations, or will we simply renovate it ourselves?  Tough decision.  It will all come down to a vote.

The Expat Hell Senior Expat Pension System will also be revised. It would seem that some of our expat brothers aged beyond 40 have run into hard times on the job market.  The Koreans ain’t hirin’ senior citizens, and once you reach age 40, you are basically a senior citizen in Korea.  We younger expats will pay into the pension system to support the older expats who are no longer able to secure full time employment, or pay the legal bills from their 3rd divorce, etc.  Expats helping expats, a strange concept alien to most foreigners in Korea.

The Hooker Hill Relocation Charity Dinner is also in the works, and will be hosted at a well known Italian bistro with actual Italians in the kitchen.  The per-plate donation is still being worked out, with all proceeds going towards the relocation of all of the comfort women prostitutes who will soon be homeless as Itaewon’s Hooker Hill is redeveloped into tourist hotels, bibimbap restaurants and trendy faux-western/faux-authentic eateries.  Social responsibility; helping the community.

A vote will be held on which business venture will next be absorbed by the Expat Hell Hedge Fund.  The coffers are bursting at the seams and the Expat Hell© portfolio is ripe for another acquisition, but what?  Will it be a print shop?  A bar or pub?  A cocktail lounge?  A deaf/mute souvenir cart?  A Thai massage parlor? Allow me to go off on a tangent for a moment.  There is a Thai massage place near my office and in the evenings, they have two Thai girls standing next to the door, greeting potential customers.  One of the Thai girls is tall and thin, with hair down to her ass and silver bracelets up to her elbows.  She looks directly at me with deep, electric eyes every time I pass by on my way to get coffee in the evening.  Her gaze blows wind into my battered sails.  Kryptonite to the working man!  Fuck the coffee; a thousand megawatt smile is all the working man needs to clock in long hours of overtime.

My secretary asks me “Jake, why do you make a funny sound and bite your fist every time we pass by this building?”  “Oh, uhhh, errr…. I’m just trying to warm up my hands.” Riiiiiiight.  I am putting in a strong vote for buying a massage shop.  A very strong vote.  In fact, I’m writing it in big red letters across the top of my ballot, ‘MASSAGE SHOP, FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST’.  I have a strong feeling that the Expat Hell hedge fund will soon be majority shareholder in a massage shop.  Screw the cocktail lounge, forget government bonds, fuck investing in oil or gold or Indian wig factories, and screw the deaf/mute souvenir cart.

When you see the electric eyes and the thousand megawatt smile, you know you are in trouble, but you also know that you are still alive.  Women look at your face as a way of getting information from you.  They are thinking, and the gears in their heads are turning when they look at your face.  Look at any part of a woman other than her face, and she instantly knows that the advantage is hers.  She is in control of you.  She is already dribbling the ball down the field, and you are chasing her.  Chasers can be winners, but they have to start off as losers.  My friends and brothers, are you chasing something?  You are not a winner.  Yet.  The streets are choked with beautiful women.  Are they looking at you with electric eyes?  Are you looking back at any other part of their body besides their face?  Loser.  Good luck.  Me?  I’m chasing my dream of owning a Thai massage parlor.  Eyes on the prize.  And so…..

The pile of papers on my desk looks about ten feet tall, and the empty cups of espresso surrounding my computer monitor are evidence that I have been avoiding sleep and putting in long hours.  My name is Jake, and I control a loyal army of 60 expats.  How about you, Mr. ESL Café?  Mr. kindergarten teacher?  Mr. ‘imported beer is too expensive’?  Are you burning the candle at both ends?  Are you making plans for big things?  No?  Then what are you doing?

Posted in The Expat | 21 Comments

Waygook Go Home: Part 2 of 2

Hi, The Expat here.  I once smoked a crack rock with a homeless person on a street corner in Los Angeles, but today I’ll be your driver.  Where you may ask?  We’re going to Incheon International Airport.  I’ve got 6 Mercedes Benz double-decker tourist buses on lease from the Korean government, and I’m running the Underground Waygook Express.

Each bus has 66 seats, totaling 396 seats.  As of right now, 121 of the seats have been reserved.  Years of marriage have significantly reduced my finances, and I am unable to provide for the Underground Waygook Express Bus Service alone.  The following Korean groups have contributed to the “Get Whitey Out of Korea” fund:

  1. All major newspapers in Korea
  2. The anti-American Beef Daum Group
  3. The Mothers of Hagwon Children Naver Club
  4. The Korean Male Recruiter Association
  5. The Anti-English Teacher Union of Seoul
  6. The Korean Bureau of Immigration
  7. The Association of Mail Order Brides from Vietnam
  8. The Association of Big White Girls Married to Koreans.
  9. The Association of Male Hagwon Owners
  10. The Association of Lonely, Single 30-something Korean Males
  11. The Association of Unemployed Candle Light Vigil Protesters
  12. The Citizens’ Association for Lawful English Education
  13. The Citizens’ Association for Monitoring Foreign Male Minority Groups

And the list goes on..  I know that most of you want to leave, but you can’t.  Your boss is holding your salary as collateral, or you face the prospect of being black-listed if you do a midnight run.  Or maybe you just have a mental barrier in place that is preventing you from leaving Korea.  Obviously, you are in the wrong state of mind, my friend.

When you hear the horns honking on my Mercedes Benz Double Decker Tourist Bus as I pull into your neighborhood, you will have approximately 15 minutes to pack one bag and make a run for it.  There’s no turning back.  If you don’t have a ticket, you can pay at the door, assuming seats are available.

The six buses will run up and down the peninsula and from East to West.  We’ll make stops in Incheon, Daejeon, Gwangju and Seongnam.  Our brothers on Jeju island will have to take a raft to the main land and proceed to the nearest large city.  Then we’re stopping in Ulsan, Bucheon, Suwon and Anyang.  I’ll only honk twice, and you’ll only have 15 minutes to make it.  We’re not turning back.

Then it’s on to Changweon, Pohong, Masan and Euijeongbu.  I’ve received emails from enlisted American soldiers asking if they can board my buses.  I’m sorry to all of my Army brothers, but at this point, we’re just taking ESL teachers and other lifers.  Priority will be given to those who have spent the longest amounts of time in Korea, as well as those who are the oldest or have accumulated the most divorces.  You get bonus points for time spent living with a woman, children or in-laws.  If you’re young and you’ve just arrived in Korea, you may have to catch next year’s bus, sorry dudes.

We’ll snake on through Cheonan, Kunsan, Pyeongtaek and Yeosu before finally locking the doors, baring the windows and pointing these 19 ton metal beasts towards Incheon airport.  On the buses there will be no kimchi, no k-pop, no Koreans and no women.

I’ve received a few emails from desperate gyopos asking me if they can board my bus.  Gyopos (who have been personally screened by myself) may board the bus, however they must sign documents swearing never to return to Korea again.  They’ll have to place their hand on the bible and kiss an American flag before being granted a ticket to this bus.

Here are a few emails I’ve received in response to my efforts:

“Hey Dude, I’m an American businessman who came here one year ago.  I invested 3 million dollars of my personal savings, and hired a staff of Korean workers.  Three months into my stay here, I found that eight different Korean companies were copying my products and pushing me out of the marketplace.  Furthermore, the public prosecutors office is chasing me.  I’ve been living out of a brief case, under a bridge in Bucheon, please send me a ticket for your “Waygook Express Bus”.  –Sincerely, Bobby in Bucheon

“Hi man.  Before I came to Korea, White people kept telling me that as a Black man, I’d face discrimination here.  I thought they were just trying to scare me out of a job, so I came anyway.  I’ve been here for a year and I can’t take it anymore.  Every time I use a public restroom, Korean men try to stare at my penis.  Just yesterday I was walking in Gangnam, and a group of Korean university students began hooting at me, and making monkey noises.  Those White people were right, fuck this noise!  Please send me a ticket for your “Waygook Express Bus”.  –Sincerely, DeAndre in Daejeon.

“Expat, dude, that last post of yours was a real eye opener dude.  I’ve been here for 3 years and accomplished absolutely nothing in my life.  My boss never pays on time, and I share a tiny apartment with four other waygooks.  When I walk down the street, people scowl at me.  I don’t have enough money to get out of Korea, but I heard that you’ve helped other individuals like me, in similar circumstances.  Please send me a ticket for your “Waygook Express Bus”.  Sincerely, Mark in Masan.

“Yo man, I’m gone my brother.  Your words really spoke to me.  I’ve been living in Korea for 12 years.  My wife doesn’t love me, and my kids treat me like a walking ATM machine.  I’m 38 years old, and I have a degree in Chemistry, what am I doing teaching English?  Fuck ‘em, I’m ready to go.  I’ve ripped up their passports and documents.  Where I’m goin’, they ain’t followin’.  I don’t even feel guilty about it.  Give me a one way ticket outa here brother.”  From Paul in Pyeongtaek.

Jacques, my good friend.  You must help me.  I am a French man who owns a French restaurant in Seoul.  Every day I’m dying little by little mon ami. The water here is not sufficiently clean and fresh to make proper French bread, and I cringe when I see my customers eating the shit we are forced to produce.  I’m closing up shop mon ami, please send me the ticket now and get me out of here, Ca me fait chier! -Etienne in Bangbae

We will start in the northern part of Korea and make one final tour of the country from north to south and into the northwest. It will be a ten day trip. A final hoorrah. A final goodbye. No Korean wives and no Korean children allowed. This bus is only for guys who have finally made the big decision. Korea is history.

On the buses you will be able to eat (no Korean food) and drink (no Korean beer) and socialize (no talking about Korea).  You can start to forget every Korean word you’ve learned.  You won’t need them where we’re going.  You may sit quietly on the bus and reflect.  A time to regroup and re-think before getting on the plane and heading back to responsible people and dependable services and emotions you can rely on. Back to the real world.

You can talk about interesting things with your comrades, things like art, and philosophy, and engineering, and history, and science.  No, these interesting subjects did not go away while you were in Korea–you went away.  It’s ok. You don’t have to pretend anymore.  There won’t be any tour guides on these buses.  Only 396 men who have decided to move forward with their lives, onwards and upwards.  A page turning moment in your life that all of your adult friends will respect.

Some of you may cry and others will be in shock. The shock of acknowledgment that the horror is finally over.  No more Korean language classes, no more fear of persecution, no more getting paid late, no more getting shafted by hagwon bosses and owners and government officialdom, no more trips to other stupid unsympathetic places on visa runs, no more incompetent doctors and mystery pills for what turned out to be a common cold.  No more grown men wearing backpacks.

No more lying to friends about how great Korea is, no more surreptitiously reading copies of the LA Times to find out what is happening back in civilization, no more dropping friendships with migratory ESL expats who come and go every year.  It is over. Finished. It is smiling time.  Initially it will be disorientation as you board, then shock, then tears, then sleeping, then smiles.

You made a horrible mistake by coming to Korea.  You know that now. Years were wasted, emotions were wasted and parts of your life can never be retrieved. But you are still alive, and still breathing, and still interested in seeing sunrises and sunsets. Just not in Korea.

Stepping off the plane in civilization you’ll feel as though you’ve been re-born.  You’ll wish you could go back and retrieve friends and former co-workers who are still clinging to ESL pipe dreams with false hopes for a better tomorrow.  This is the last boarding call for the Underground Waygook Express headed for Incheon International Airport. Your documents are in order and your tickets are in hand.  Your home country will honor your passport and there will be no drug tests, AIDS tests or document authentication tests. You are going to get another chance at life.  You have a degree, and you have value as a human being.  Don’t mess it up this time.

Posted in Cultural Commentaries, The Expat | 2 Comments