I sat looking out at sea, but POSCO had claimed it. Sea walls, giant freight ships, and clouds of black smoke hung over the horizon. Behind me the sun shone majestically. It did its best to bring out some good in this unnatural scene. The water lapped upon the beach, sweeping broken white shells off to some better place. A crab crawled out of the water and spluttered, staggered, and died. An old woman with a red net-bag hobbled along the beach and picked it up. She dropped the bag, sniffed the crab, and nibbled on its longest leg. Satisfied, she threw it in the bag and scuttled away.
An old man drove by on a scooter, tearing up the sand. He tried to set the bike down, but it kept sinking. The beach wanted no part of it. Finally, he threw it to the ground and ran into a shaded spot by a pile of dirty rocks, and shat on the sand. He was maybe thirty feet away from me.
To my left were towers, owned by oil companies, and the same repugnant apartment buildings that littered Daegu, Busan and Seoul. A warship waited in a harbour, and a cement ship turned in a smog of its own dirty emissions. A ferry, with the cursed word ‘Dokdo’ on the side, sat pointlessly by a pier.
To my right, the POSCO steel mill stretched out into the bay. Some of the chimneys were newly painted red and white; everything else was black. It all seemed cast in shadow, and indeed it cast its own shadow upon the water.
- – -
As I write this, an old man is circling me. He stops two feet behind me, trying to decipher my handwriting. He can’t. Even I have trouble reading this mess. He circles twice more, and walks away down the beach, stopping and turning and looking back every thirty seconds, to make sure I’m not shooting up, smacking bitches or blogging negatively about Korea… Dirty foreigners.
- – -
Another old man, indistinguishable from the first, or indeed, from most old Korean men, stepped out of the water. His one unique feature was that he was wearing only a see-through pair of purple underpants. It was like watching an aging, Asian Daniel Craig. As he stepped over the waterline he stared at me and waved his arms in circles; it’s something I’ve seen countless elderly Koreans do – an ancient, pointless exercise.
I smiled at him and looked down at my notebook, hoping he would wander away without feeling the need to speak, shout or circle. Instead, he turned and dropped his underpants. Then, he bent his knees and mercifully buried his sagging white cheeks in the filthy sand.