[잉그리드의 전주살이] When Ingrid Met Sherry
[잉그리드의 전주살이] When Ingrid Met Sherry
  • Ingrid 전주대 교수
  • 승인 2018.08.02 20:05
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Have you ever met a person who you just immediately get along with? Someone who you just know has your back, that you instantly conspire with and has some of the same toughness as you? Twenty three years ago I met such a woman who became my housemate. Sherry was from the east coast of Canada but grew up in Southern Ontario in a small community not so different than mine. At the end of her first day at the hagwon, I introduced myself as one of the people she would be living with and then I asked her if she knew her way back home. She realized the staff had taken her there earlier but they drove her and she didn't know how to get back. They had done the same to me a year earlier. So I got my bike and started to walk back with her and show her the landmarks she needed to find her way back home and then to school again the next morning. As we were walking through university street near Chunbuk University's old main gate, an older man came up, put his arm through her's and tried to guide her away from me toward the area with the yogwons - motels. She quickly guessed what he was doing and resisted. I did not have the Korean language skills at that time to politely handle the situation. Well, let's be honest, when it comes to sexual harassment by drunk men, are language skills ever enough?




So we continued on our way, he followed us cheerfully as I explained our route. He was quite persistent in his pursuit and never let us out of his reach, but wisely kept his hands to himself. We were getting close to home and I really did not want this man knowing where we lived and banging on our door all night long. Dealing with drunks is not my idea of a good time. So I asked Sherry if she could and would fight. She assured me she was a barroom brawler. Perfect. Finally a girl by my side who could fight. I told her I was going to call him a bad name in Korean and he was going to be quite upset and I didn't know how he would react. She said she was ready. I called him the Korean word for "bastard" - one of the few bad words I knew. That worked. He got angry, started puffing and walking around in circles repeating the word and we ran. It must have taken a few minutes to realize we were gone because we got to the house and inside before he could find us. We saw him marching past the house several times in the next hour but then we never saw him again.




I knew then that I liked her and we had our first adventure together. Unfortunately that was not our only sexual harassment incident. Sherry has beautiful eyes and men seem to gravitate to her like moons around a planet. After living in Jeonju for a year she went to Germany then back to Korea, the second time to Ilsan. I went up to see her about once a month and on the subway in Seoul it almost became routine. The worst time was when a drunk man was grabbing my butt. I moved away and she told him to f*** off and die. The vulgarity he had no problem with, the die part upset him. He started repeating that and working himself up into a rage. Two Korean men asked us to get off the train because they were afraid he was going to get violent. Why is it when men sexually harass women, women are the ones who are punished? I didn't ask him to grab my butt, so why do I have to get off the subway? But we did, because we are diplomatic, representing our country, not because those men were right. They should have thrown the drunk pervert off the train. But there had been an international incident between an American man and a Korean woman that made headlines not long before. The man was accused of harassing the woman. Later it was reported they were having a marital spat and didn't need the intervention of strangers "protecting the poor Korean damsal in distress from the evil deviant foreigner" which is how the incident was framed back then. So we let it go because we didn't want to be two foreign women beating on a poor helpless Korean pervert. But I am so happy with the #metoo movement and I hope it continues. We could have used it back then. Unfortunately that we need it at all, ever.


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