6 (Wed) January 2016
Sizzling Stuff Tofu
at Tao Yuan
with MJK and RK
Koreans — Koreans in Korea — believe that the Philippines is the most dangerous place in the world — dangerous to Koreans. In mid-2014, a release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs showed that 780 crimes had been committed in 2013 against Korean nationals in the Philippines, more than anywhere in the world, less than 589 crimes in runner-up China. Conclusion : Koreans are being “targeted.” Quickly and warmly embraced as a perverse point of pride, because Koreans just love being first in anything on the global stage.
The logic is weak. If, for example, more crimes had been committed in the Philippines against another expat group. Or if more crimes had been committed against ethnic Koreans in another country. Or if more crimes had been committed in another country against Korean nationals per capita. Haven’t been able to find figures to back this up, but I wouldn’t be surprised.
Moreover, though news reports never discuss details, the consensus among Koreans who actually live here is that the crimes are perpetrated by fellow Koreans, perhaps rival business owners, disgruntled employees, loan sharks, pimps. And few incidents in Manila, most reported in small shady provincial towns.
No updated report was released in 2015, but occasional news stories every month or so perpetrate the belief.
We just got a new Korean staff member MJK who’s a firm believer. Holed up in the Pan Pacific for the past couple weeks while looking for secured housing in a “better” part of town, she has yet to walk the streets, taking the hotel shuttle to and from work every day, eating dinner inside the hotel every night. Trying to assure her that Manila is safer than most major cities in the world, RK and I took her on a reckless adventure to Tao Yuan across the street. She seemed nervous the whole time.
Been held up at gun point once. College. Berkeley. Late night dinner at a Korean restaurant. With girlfriend. 2 guys in masks burst in. Handguns held sideways — like gangstas did back in the 90s. “GET ON THE FUCKING FLOOR … YO!!” — verbatim. The waitress on duty bolts out a side-door fire escape, no pause, nary a peep, while the cooks dash through the kitchen exit, quick and quiet — the Mexican survival reflex in action. Leaving behind a pair of befuddled jackasses standing there in disbelief and 8 customers lying on the fucking floor. Jackass A steps behind the counter and tries to open the cash register but can’t bypass the security protocols — the waitress had taken the key — so he starts pounding on it with his gun — straight outta World’s Dumbest Criminals. After about 10 seconds, Jackass B proposes an alternative financing mechanisms : “Hey, uh, like, you think we should like get their wallets… and stuff?” — verbatim. I’m already busy surreptitiously removing my drivers licence, credit cards, Blockbuster membership card, and other items from my wallet that require replacement — the anticipation of paperwork is a higher priority to me at this point than the threat of mortal danger. But then, through the glass door, I see police officers approaching with their weapons drawn. “OH SHIT … THE COPS!!” — verbatim. They run out through the kitchen, immediately apprehended. The waitress had merely strolled next door to the noraebang and called 911. One block away, a 24-hour convenience store where the police are known to hang out — eating doughnuts, seriously. Everything over within minutes. Turns out that the would-be heist had been masterminded by the owner’s son’s two friends, both Korean American high school students.