Apr. 12th, 2017

smokingboot: (snail)
Back in the 90s I had a job in the South Korean Embassy. I was considered an odd choice, for I had much considered wrong/ugly in South Korean tradition. I was the daughter of two different nations-considered-races and I had freckles. Worst of all, I was left-handed. They didn't notice this latter till I started work.

'If we had seen it, we would never have hired you,' said one employee obligingly. Left-handedness meant at best stupidity, at worst demon possession. Still they kept me on, and the attache I worked for even went so far as to compliment 'these mongrels who are smart and healthy, and live a long time...' Yes, he meant me. He wouldn't have been surprised to see me gallop up to him covered in mud carrying sticks in my mouth. Others told me that in Korean his words would translate as a witty and elegant compliment...then laughed at my unimpressed expression. I did not find him a charming employer

My left-handedness and mongrel ancestry did line me up for demeaning work, so when Seoul demanded research into bringing South Korean public hygiene into line with EU standards, the challenge ended up on my desk. And yes, I had contact with the famous Mr Toilet; if you are ever in Seoul and you find a nice public loo, I have played my part in supplying it. Please don't feel you have to think of me in situ.

The diplomats were funny. One dismissed Princess Diana as being 'too tall with a big nose.' I had the interesting experience of watching Fergie leap out of a car and race bow-leggedly to a meeting with one of our bemused attaches, followed by her bodyguards. According to others who watched her and Prince Andrew dine, they both had dreadful table manners, lots of grunting and food swilling round laundromat mouths.

One day was not so funny; an attache came in waving some piece of paper, his face its equal in whiteness. The news was secret and therefore not generally known around the embassy til that afternoon; North Korea had nuclear capacity. Whether they had developed something or bought something or tested something, whether they had the works or just part of an on going deal, or whether this was just a scare I never knew. One thing was certain; everyone took it deadly seriously.

Decades later, maybe it's all a boast. It's a bloody poor country apparently, maybe its weapons are old hat. Maybe the fierce old guard are gone and Kim Jong Un is just a wee round gadfly. But I'd not stake much on that... I wouldn't stake much on that at all.

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