Dateline, Itaewon, Sunday Afternoon

She’s pointing at the Joongang Ilbo because she apparently does not understand what I am searching for, what I am in need of. She and I are in the same solar system, but we are communicating at different wave lengths, man. So I switch to Korean. “No, no, no. You see, I’m looking for the lowest quality, most bottom-feeding journalistic rag on the Korean peninsula.” Her eyes come alive with understanding. I think we have a comprehension breakthrough moment. Then the middle-aged clerk at the MiniStop convenience store across from the UN Club looks me dead in the eye and tells me “Sorry, we don’t carry the Korea Times here.” Dejected, I spill back out into the street.

It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m in Itaewon with a pocket full of cash and a whole day to kill. Everyone I know is either busy, gone, dead or under ‘Korean wife house arrest’ with balls, credit cards and cash buried in a kimchi jar somewhere. This is my sad state of social affairs. I normally sit down at the Seoul Pub with a copy of the Korea Times and a Sharpie pen, making mature journalistic annotations and commentary in the margins when I come across something thought-provoking. Before starting, I discard the sports page, ‘culture’ page and ‘English times’ page. I am assisted in this process by several glasses of beer:

news_best_friend news_big_blow news_HJ news_joints news_mers news_mers2

Once I finish with the newspaper, I usually neatly fold it and return it back to the store from where I purchased it so the next curious expat can enjoy the Sunday paper with all of the dull sections removed, and colorful commentary added as a kind of bonus content. Thank me later.

I decide to set a budget of just 100,000won for the entire day. I have already had 24,000 worth of beer, leaving me with 76,000 won. I call my whoremonger friend R. who is under ‘Korean wife house arrest’. He is under ‘Korean wife house arrest’ because his wife caught him jerking off in the living room to a photo of a bikini-clad racing model I sent him via Kakaotalk. Addiction counsellors would say that by sending him a provocative photo, I intentionally triggered an ‘addiction relapse event’.  Somehow, I feel partially responsible for his current predicament. I ask him what kind of trouble I can get up to in Itaewon with 76,000won. “Well, 76,000 is handjob/blowjob territory, you can’t get much more than that. But there is this one deaf-mute woman working on Hooker Hill up at the top on the left side up that tiny stairway. She’ll give you a piece of paper and basically you can write down what you want, and a price, and she’ll grab the pen from you and write down her price, trying to haggle. She doesn’t read English, so you have to kind of draw a picture of what you want.”

Hmmm, I think I’ll pass on that one. “Well, if that ain’t your scene, you could try one of those massage places. I heard you can get a prostate massage in the basement of the Hamilton hotel for 50,000.” I google ‘prostate massage’ on my smartphone after hanging up. I then dial American friend Henry, who is also under ‘Korean wife house arrest’ after blowing a large wad of cash on these very streets last month. He’s been here since 1998, he should know. “Ever heard of a prostate massage?” I ask. “Yeah man, I got you covered. See, there’s this little place I go to in Mokdong run by this grandmother. Been goin’ there for years, man. What you do after paying is you get up on this kind of table/bed thing while the old lady gets oiled up, and…..” Henry stops short when one of his kids finds him hiding in his home office, phone to ear, hand cupped over mouthpiece and threatens to ‘tell mommy’. “I gotta go, chat later.” He hangs up.

I decide to go for a normal massage. I pay my 50,000 to the front desk woman who leads me to a small dark room and hands me a little plastic bag with something inside of it. She tells me to disrobe, and walks out to get the masseuse. I open the plastic bag to find a hair net. I think to myself, ‘Why do I need hair net?’ Maybe they don’t want to mess up my hair during the massage, or maybe I have to shower first. I put the hair net on my head and disrobe. The masseuse comes and starts to laugh. “That for you body, you not put on head!” Oops, I guess the little fish net thing she gave me was actually some kind of strange massage underwear that they use for oil massages. I wondered why it had those two holes in it. I guess that’s where you put your legs through

After a G-rated, but professional massage, I’m feeling pretty good and I still have 26,000won in my pocket. I walk the mean streets of Itaewon desperately trying to blow the last of my Korean currency load. I browse the shirts being sold by the street vendors. One of the novelty t-shirts reads “SHITPISS FUCKCUNT COCKSUCKER MOTHERFUCKER”. I ask the kindly 70-something grandmother how much this fine shirt costs, and she says 15,000. Another shirt says “Blow Me or Go Home”, while a red shirt featuring Santa Clause says “Twerk, Bitch”. Nothing catches my eye. I pass the counterfeit Dolce and Gabbana underwear seller, the fake hand bag seller, the tailor touts, the shouting Turkish ice-cream man, the fake Hermes belt vendor and the grandmother selling fake Rayban sunglasses.

I decide that it might not actually be possible for me to spend the whole 100,000won in Itaewon. If you had 100,000 in your pocket, and a day to kill in Itaewon, what would you do?

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18 Responses to Dateline, Itaewon, Sunday Afternoon

  1. DongDuChoke says:

    Right now, I’d spend it all on booze.

    • The Expat says:

      Alcohol seems to be the only thing of value in Itaewon. Perhaps a better question would be “What’s the least amount of money you can spend in Itaewon and still be entertained?”

  2. Mitsuko says:

    Hi Jake, good to see you writing again!

  3. Johnny Drama says:

    If you had 100,000 in your pocket, and a day to kill in Itaewon, what would you do?

    Is that a rhetorical question? LOL

  4. Cereal says:

    I did just that this past Friday, except I’m pretty sure I spent more than 100,000 Won.

    I play it smart. I actually think about what the future holds – about 24 hours hence to be exact – and make sure my stomach has some nourishment in it before the shitshow starts. I find a small sub at subway fits the bill. I’ll still eat there despite their #1 superstar spokesman being outed as a pedophile.

    A small sub with lots of meat and veggies on it gives me just enough food in my gut with lots of good shit like vitamins and minerals to protect me from the oncoming onslaught of alcohol abuse. Any more food than that and I’d be too full and wouldn’t feel like boozing.

    Then it’s off to the Rocky Mountain Tavern for several Bloody Caesars: doubles and extra spicy. After a few of those I switch to Moosehead.

    Me, The Baron and OneMoreRepIzzy were there Friday night. I was there for a while before they showed up. I may have been on the Moosehead by then, I can’t quite remember.

    I was waiting for the guys in the damn near empty bar when a guy sat down beside me. He was wearing normal street clothes, jeans and a T-shirt. He had a camouflage backpack that looked like the real deal, not some knockoff Sears and Roebuck bullshit camouflage backpack with shitty plastic zippers that break the fourth time you yank it down.

    We were alone and I’m friendly, so naturally I said hi and introduced myself. He said hi back, friendly like, not as in “fuck this half-wasted dipshit wants to talk to me” kind of way.

    I started to ask what he did and then stopped myself as an epiphany of momentary brilliance zipped around my neural net pathway at the speed of light.

    “Wait.” I said. “Let me guess what you do.”

    He agreed, and looked surprised. Perhaps he was expecting my to put on my Karnak The Magnificent hat like Johnny Carson did way back when.

    He had an aura about him. Not a real aura, I’m not Edward fucking Casey. But a feel, a look of quiet confidence and self assuredness so few have and fewer still have it for real because most that do are full of shit.

    He had the backpack, he had a close cropped head of greying hair. He was about 5’10” or so and looked about 175 lbs. His T-shirt fit tightly and it was very obvious that he was in far superior shape to me. No gut at all.

    He looked like the kind of guy that never went looking for trouble, and if ever placed in it would choose a way out. However, if there was no way out, he looked like he would be one bad mother-fucker. Someone you want on your side when the shit hits the fan.

    My father did 37 years in the Air Force and I grew up on military bases. Canadian ones, so a smaller, quieter and more polite group than our American counterparts. We ask for permission to kill you and then apologize for doing so. Thus, I knew a military guy when I saw one.

    He was too old to be a private or even a corporal, unless he’d really fucked up, and he didn’t look the sort.

    He didn’t look like an officer. Too old to be a lieutenant or a captain and he didn’t have the air of arrogance to be a major. A colonel or general were out of the question because they’d never be caught dead in the RMT talking to a fucking ESL teacher.

    So I said to him, “You’re American and in the military.” He nodded.

    I surmised he wasn’t Navy or Air Force, wrong backpack and it didn’t feel right. I thought Marines or Army, but they didn’t feel right either. I couldn’t put my finger on it but they just seemed too normal.

    He nodded again and was clearly interested to see where this was going.

    I told him my father had been a career military guy and had retired a Master Warrant Officer. I don’t know what they are called in American terms. It’s the 2nd highest NCO (non-commissioned officer) rank. He said that rank was called a senior NCO. So I said I think you’re a senior NCO and explained why as mentioned above.

    He nodded again, impressed by my drunken, slightly slurring logic.

    I told him I didn’t think he fit the normal Marine or Army guy look. Too confident, too self assured and totally lacking the arrogance too many of those schmucks have. He looked like a guy who doesn’t have to say Hoo-Rah but would simply stare down a starting linebacker in the NFL before kicking his fucking ass really quickly and super efficiently. I told him that too and he smiled and nodded.

    So I said, “I think you’re a senior NCO, probably a SEAL, Green Beret, Special Forces…something like that.”

    He laughed and said “well done”. I was spot on except he was Special Ops. He gave me his card and we boozed and laughed until The Baron and OneMoreRepIzzy showed up then we all got boozed up together.

    I think he paid our bill when he left, I don’t remember, but I know I drank a shitload more than the 40,000 Won receipt I discovered in my pocket when I got back to Laos.

    I also had a long email from him so I obviously gave him my address. He wants to get together with his girlfriend when Missy gets back to Korea in October.

    I think that’s cool. It’s always nice to have a Special Ops guy on your wing if a Klown pisses me off and I get mouthy!

  5. Billy says:

    Is the midget on hooker hill still there? She comes on strong, calling it out at a solid 100, but she haggles, sometimes down to 10.

    I miss the egg and cheese lady and the kid who sold the late night shwarma. I’d drop the whole 100 on them.

  6. PK says:

    So glad you’re posting new material to the public again. Being here for 6+years, it not only serves as entertainment but also as therapy. So that means I went without my therapy for quite some time….. leading to arrests, lashing out at the public and self medication. You’re a savior.

    If you ever make it down to Busan I’d be delighted to purchase you several adult beverages, even of the imported variety (because whoever subjects themselves to the domestic kind after being here for 6 years may have issues beyond the average expat).

    Great to see you back!

  7. waygookyoja says:


    Yeah, so I’ve been reluctant to publish on your site for a while but let’s just be honest. As fellow long-term ex-pats, we can only ignore each other for so long. I admire your work. I have my own, but I prefer to publish anonymously. I also had to close down my last site thanks to too many threats from K-defenders and other nonsense. You’ve been in Korea for as long as I have. We understand. I am the original waygookyoja. I’m glad you’re back. I have the mind to start contributing again. Meh. I’ve been lazy in keeping my observations to myself. You’ve inspired me to pick up the keyboard again. Keep it going mate.

    • The Expat says:

      Do you have a blog now?

    • Billy says:

      I really miss the honest blogs written by ladies in Korea. Fully encourage you to publish, but feel the urge to urge you to Up your security if you publish, there’s a lot of skulking net trash perched on the edge of their keyboards ready to defend korea/violate your privacy. Or just harrass you.

  8. waygookyoja says:

    I do but need help with setting up security. I posted over at the Korean Observer op ed. A little article called “Mine Mine Mine” It was supposed to be a rough draft that got published as is. I could blog all day about the shite us baegin yojas have to put up with. I think that’s the direction my blog is going. I learned Korean to communicate with the Korean husband but some days I just want my little bubble of ignorant bliss back. It was no surprise so many other women responded to it. Try being tall and blonde in Korea for a day. It doesn’t matter what I wear its like moths to the flame..

    • The Expat says:

      I’m starving to read anything interesting here. I liked your article. The truth sometimes cuts like a knife. I like how all of the Koreaboos who commented on your article were in a sense hurt on behalf of their host nation. I sometimes wonder if Koreaboos/apologist weirdos would likewise take offense if a Korean social critic published something critical of their homeland. Would the Koreaboos still get bent out of shape? Or, are people with Korean DNA permitted to be critical of things Korean, even if they don’t live in Korea? What about non-Koreans who have taken residence or citizenship in Korea? Are they also barred from writing commentary about the society they live in? What of Korean-Americans, do they have a license to criticize both lands, or neither? If you have questions about security, you can contact me. jaketheexpat *at

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