I just got an unexpected gig at EBS Radio as one of the hosts of their flagship show “Morning Special.” During discussions of how the show and web site is set up, they said they’d link to ZenKimchi. It occurred to me that I’m getting more and more public with the Korean public, government and companies. I just know that some old gripe I’ve written on my seven-year diary blog can be misinterpreted and blow up, as things sometimes do on the Korean internet. So I’m going to start password protecting posts that I think could be sensitive.

Don’t worry, though. If you want a password to read anything contact me through Facebook.

We recorded the pilot this morning. This has made me very nervous. I’ve worked in broadcasting for a while in Korea and in the U.S. I did college radio, directed live TV, produced syndicated radio and have starred on Korean TV shows. And I’ve been doing the SeoulPodcast for three years. But this is live radio. Morning drivetime radio. With people cuing me from a booth and witty banter I have to produce or cut off depending on how much time there is. And scripts. And interviews. And pretending I know anything about sports when it comes up. And it’s by far the largest audience I’ve ever had on a regular basis. And I’ll have to wake up around 5 a.m. to show up at work at 7. Monday through Friday.

This all came by happenstance. Early in January, I got a call from an EBS producer asking me to go on the show to be interviewed about ZenKimchi. The date came in February, and I made it to the studio and had fun doing my on-air interview. The producer (“P.D.”) asked if I could stay later to talk. In the meeting she asked if I’d be interested in doing a weekly Korean culture segment for the next season, which starts in March. I said, “Sure.”

We agreed to meet again later to discuss it further. She called that next week to schedule the meeting and see if I was still interested. She said something about “host,” which I thought may have been what Koreans call anyone who goes on air. We decided to meet Friday morning.

I got there and was brought into a room with four or five people. They started talking to me about being the main foreign host of “Morning Special.” They had changed their minds and wanted me for the big position. I had to do an audition, though. So I went into the booth with another DJ, and we recorded some bits. I was in sudden shock and was in another one of those surreal zones where nothing seems real. I channeled what I usually do on the SeoulPodcast, minus cursing, along with my announcer voice I do at the beginning of the podcast. At the end, they said, “Congratulations.”

Again, I was a little confused. They congratulated me, but I was also told that they had other foreigners auditioning for the job. So when I came in today to record a pilot, I wasn’t sure if it was a pilot pilot or if it was a second audition. Turned out it was a pilot pilot.

I got the job!

Things are truly looking up around here–for the time being.

The night before I did the pilot, I was in Itaewon. I went there for my twice weekly Korean class, but I hung out later to check out a restaurant for 10 Magazine with Steve and David from the magazine. While I sat waiting for my transfer train home, I caught a drunk old man in the corner of my eye. I could sense that he had noticed me and went up to sit down next to me–staring.

“Where you from?”

I indicated that I was listening to my headphones, but he didn’t get the hint. That never works, really.


(“Shit, I told him that I was from America.”)

“I love America!”


I returned to my earphones. He bugged the young woman on his other side. While he did so, the train started coming, and I subtly got up and moved to a part of the platform that strategically separated us by train cars if he did the normal thing and took the train door in front of him. I got on the train and headed to the middle.

As the train started moving, I caught something swinging at the corner of my eye. The drunk guy had entered my car, and he was a few people down, holding onto the passenger handle and dangling. He coughed without covering his mouth on the people sitting in front of him. He moved and got next to me. The person in front of him got up and left.

(“Oh, no.”)

He told me to sit down. I knew that if I sat down, I’d be stuck with him bothering and coughing and possibly puking on me the rest of the trip. Since he was older, I politely asked him to sit down instead. He insisted that I sit down.

Then he got violent.

He grabbed my elbow and forcefully tried to force me into the seat. I gave him the crazy foreigner look. He hesitated. Then he tried even harder. People around us were getting uncomfortable. I looked around with pleading eyes, hoping someone would intervene. He spread his legs and put his whole weight into getting me into that seat. He grabbed me by my coat lapels and then by the sleeve. When I heard the threads to my coat ripping, I decided to do something I never do–get confrontational.

I smiled and remembered an old move I learned from my short stint as a high school wrestler and later as a kindergarten teacher stopping kids from hitting each other. I grabbed his wrist at that crevice that is perfectly shaped to wrap a couple of fingers around. I twisted his arm and unbalanced him, making sure he landed in the subway seat. I smiled politely and consciously kept my heart rate down the whole time. I brushed off his shoulders and made my way to another part of the train.

He got up and followed me again. He again asked where I was from. I told him, “Germany,” this time. I was working up the words and grammar to tell him off in Korean when he got distracted and started asking someone for directions on the subway map over the door. I used that as my opportunity to slip into the other car. I didn’t see him again the rest of the way.

It’s funny that this happened right after Korean papers and netizens had discovered the site Blackout Korea and used it as a springboard to berate foreigners for being depraved for taking pictures of drunk ajosshies behaving badly. And here was a shining example of another drunk ajosshi behaving badly.

So, I’ll still tell stories. But I’ll be more careful or just password protect the posts. I’ll keep the useful posts about legal matters public. But for now, I’m going into my digital cave.

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