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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Days Gone By

While looking over some old files, I found the following piece I wrote many, many years ago. At the time, I wrote two regular columns for a publication called Seoul Classifieds, which is now defunct. The first, "Seoul Searching," was on general life in the South Korean megapolis, and "G.I. Blues" was about the military, both U.S. and Republic of Korea (I found a few old pieces from that also, beware.)

I ceased writing for the magazine after the publisher objected to a column I wrote about South Koreans, mainly university students, protesting the U.S. presence in the ROK while knowing little about their own history. In the piece, I pointed out that more Americans died to help South Korea become a nation than were stationed there at the time of writing (as did United Nations service members from an additional 20 countries). The publisher was uncomfortable with what I wrote, so I stopped contributing.

It all seems so long ago. Yet most of the gentlemen I wrote about below can still be found at the same corner of the same bar, playing poker dice for beer or Jagermeister and solving the problems of the world. (Yes Ron, Stevie, Chet - I do consider you gentlemen!) Some time after I wrote this piece, they got to meet Nic himself and Stevie asked him to do the "bunny" line. Good times!

Interesting fact: This column was one reason I was asked to test for a job at IHT/JoongAng Daily - the South Korean supplement to the International Herald Tribune. I thought I had applied to be a columnist and found myself a deputy editor. The colleagues I worked with there are still a large and valued part of my life.

Visiting With the VKW

Nicolas Cage and Wesley Snipes are both members, but only Cage has the t-shirt.

If he wants to join the support group, they meet weekly in an Itaewon bar.

That’s when the 3 Alley Pub Chapter of the V.K.W. gathers to share beverages and banter. And no, they aren’t Veterans of Korean Wars but have faced a more daunting task – they’re Victims of Korean Wives!

I joined the Chapter at the bar last week seeking further information. They were happy to enlighten me on condition I used no names.

That would complicate their drinking, I was told.

Ask when the club was formed and they’ll say during the Korean War. The 3 Alley Pub Chapter, however, is a more recent occurrence and the guys only designed their t-shirts last year.

Membership is open to any foreigner with a Korean wife.

“The membership dues are extremely high,” one member joked.

“You never stop paying,” another agreed.

When asked how their wives viewed the group, one replied, “They love it!”

After the laughter of the others subsides, he continued, ". . . Or tolerate it. It’s one of those two words.”

It’s all tongue in cheek though and they confide that most of their wives even wash and iron their shirts.

“One thing about our club is we wouldn’t trade our wives for anyone else in the world,” one said, to agreement from the others.

“But we realize we’re married to weird women,” another added.

The shop that made their t-shirts mysteriously burned down earlier this year.

“It could have been our wives,” they surmised.

As for the Hollywood connection, both Cage and Snipes are married to Korean women. One member teaches Cage’s wife’s uncle who forwarded the actor a V.K.W. shirt.

Snipes is sure to want one when he sees it!

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