Monday, December 19, 2011

Obligatory KJI Post

Despite knowing fuck-all about international relations, I do have some thoughts on the Kim Jeong-il brouhaha. That's for later.  I just thought that where I was and what I was doing when I (and the rest of South Korea) found out was kind of funny:

I go to a jjimjilbang three days a week to use their "health room" (super-small gym) and get the rare hot shower  whose length isn't dictated by the size of my water heater.  The shower is the bigger attraction than the gym, but I use the gym to justify it financially (7,000 won just for a hot shower seems rather dear, but add in the weight training and cardio and it's cheaper/just about equivalent to a real gym, which may or may not have a sauna).  I had finished in the health room (and technically I do it backwards by doing the health room first and THEN the sauna, but I'd rather finish off by relaxing in a hot tub instead of panting on a treadmill) and was getting ready to shower when I noticed there were way more people hanging around the TV in the locker room than normal.

So there I was, naked and glasses-less, squinting at the TV with maybe a dozen other naked Korean women, sweaty from my workout and the heat in the locker room. Before us, a never-ending parade of North Korean footage and propaganda with South Korean commentary on top of it.  Periodically it cut back to well-groomed news anchors discussing something.  The only Korean in the headline that I could understand was Kim Jeong-il's name.  I tried to wrack my brain for the verb for "to die" or "to kill," but came up short.  The footage had all the unmistakable tinge of "this person's dead now," and as soon as I saw it, I knew.  I posted a question on Facebook to be sure, and I saw a few other women texting furiously or calling people—never mind that some of them were still wet and sweaty from the sauna.

That's a memory I'll probably carry around the rest of my life: me, and the ajummas, and the weird naked solidarity we shared watching the lunchtime news.

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