Written by Venessa Locher
The bizarre occurrences I’m about to share don’t seem to have happened to any other expats in Korea whom I’ve chatted to. However, since it has happened to me TWICE, I think it’s only fair I get to share these anecdotes.
To be blunt, there are a few supporting details that I need to share earnestly for the sake of full appreciation. First, ya’ girl’s got her fair serving of breast meat! No, my boobs are not gargantuan globes that demand attention when they enter a room; but it’s fair to say that even at home in America I’m considered “busty.” Second, your average Korean lady is generally packing a much smaller supply of mammarys than I (or most Western women). Third, it should be understood that Korean culture does not appreciate and accept breasts or cleavage like we do in America. It’s tough to go shopping and find shirts that cut below the collar-bone, and when too much chest is showing, one should be ready for the stares. However, in my defense, both of these stories happened in winter when I had fully zipped, down jackets covering my body!
The first affront happened when I was in Busan, a southern coastal city. It was November and I had been living in Korea for 3 months. I was on the subway, alone, and heading to the beach to meet my friends. I was standing on the subway, facing the center aisle, and holding a bar with my right hand. Across from me was a sweet looking halmonee (grandma). She didn’t smile at me, but she stood there, pleasant and unassuming enough. We stopped at a station and the doors to my back opened. It was the halmonee’s stop and she had to pass me on the left to exit the car–and NO, I was not blocking the door in any way. As she walked by, her little left hand came up and touched my left boob. She turned her eyes up to look at me, gave a small, sweet smile, and sweetly squeezed for the most brief second. The moment passed and she was out of the subway. And there I was; on the subway; confused, weirdly amused, but mostly feeling pretty violated. I left the incident as it was, isolated and over with.
However, unlucky for me, that would not be the only unwarranted assault my breasts would endure in Korea. Only one month later I was rushing off the inter-city bus in Daegu to catch the subway for downtown. I was walking outside with my hands holding my backpack straps. I turned a corner to my right in order to head down the stairs to the station. This time, an ajumma (older woman in her 40’s or 50’s) was standing on the corner I had turned. She was just standing there and I was just passing her with plenty of room between the two of us. As I completed the turn I made eye-contact with the ajumma, and this time it was not the eyes of a sweet old lady. Two rays of hate shot right at me and in that same instant she threw her right hand, palm upwards, right at my chest. The contact was swift, powerful, and definitely intentional. For a moment I went wide-eyed and shocked. Then, I just hurriedly continued my walk down the stairs without a word. If there’s one thing you learn about Korea, it’s that it’s the ajumma’s world and you’re just living in it. I had no intention of starting some sort of confrontation with this ajumma, especially considering she had the balls to hit me in the first place! As a foreigner in that situation I felt very vulnerable and singled out. Luckily, like I said, these incidents don’t seem to have been shared by other Western women; if they have, I’d sure love to hear about it. I really don’t even know if it had anything to do with my boobs or their size, but that’s the only way I can rationalize what happened. ~STRANGE~