Halloween in Korea 2016: Monsters, Both Imaginary and Real

Halloween was a wild ride this year, and not pleasant all the way through. We had a good time throughout most of the night, but unfortunately it wasn’t just fun and dancing. This has been our second Halloween celebration in Korea, and it was completely different this time around. For Halloween 2015, we partied in Hongdae and had a crazy fun time. This year, we decided to try a new scene, so we set our eyes on Gangnam. We found this really cool-looking event called the Halloween Factory Party. A social group called Global Seoul Mates rented out a warehouse style venue and transformed it into a haunted factory. The ticket price included entrance into a Gangnam club as an after party. We figured that it would be a night to remember! Little did we know, it would be memorable, and mostly great, with one terrible event near the end of the night. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Kelly and I were joined this year by two friends: Marley and Jake. Marley is another English teacher living in Cheongyang, and our designated voice of reason when we go out partying lately. She traveled with us to our accommodations in Gangnam, which we found through AirBnB. If you’re not familiar with the website and app, you should definitely look into it while traveling! It is a cheaper alternative to hotels, and you can sometimes stay with a local who knows the best things to do in the area. Anyway, we rented a room in an apartment owned by two more English teachers, and their dog. They were very nice, and a frouple in their own right. They told us about the bro dates they go on, or as they call them, brates. They share food and go out to watch movies and play computer games together. We bonded over our respective froupleships. We also got some much-needed puppy time with their English bulldog, Charlie.

Kelly and my idea for Halloween was to paint half a skull on each of our faces. After experimenting with face paint, we realized that makeup was the way to go. My half was purple and Kelly’s was blue. I got purple streaks in my hair specially for the occasion, and Kelly had previously dyed the bottom of her hair blue. It was perfect! We wore black dresses and blue and purple tights to complete our looks. Kelly is a truly amazing makeup artist! I was so happy with the results.

Our half-skull look for Halloween.

Kelly then did Marley’s makeup, and Jake’s as well after he came to meet us at the apartment. Marley was a character from the Japanese book Battle Royale, and Jake was a zombie (although after the makeup job, he thought he looked like a beaten panda. He wasn’t used to anything at all on his face). We were all ready to go! The Skeleton Sisters, a girl ready to kick ass, and our Korean zombie.

Our group arrived at the first venue of the Halloween Factory Party, called SJ Kunsthalle. There were so many people, and so much activity! I saw costumes of all different shapes and sizes, including Hillarys, Trumps, Vikings, Gorillas, Kitty Cats and horror movie characters galore. It was packed, and so many things were happening at once. We could get in line for free beer, dance on the ground floor, and see live performances as well as DJs spinning out their (mostly Western) jams. We also ventured to the upper floors, to watch the madness below.

For sometime, we alternated between dancing and waiting in line for beer. The live performances were silly and entertaining, with lip syncs and dance routines and Koreans “swagging” all over the stage. The place had a nice vibe, and we jammed while trying to get a buzz going. I even picked a guy out of the crowd to dance with, as I edged away from the creepy puppet mask from Saw in front of Kelly and I. We started talking while we waited to get more beer. His name is Ted, and he was my puppy for the evening. When I say puppy, I mean that he was a sweet guy, and he followed me everywhere. It was a jolly good time.

Having a good time at SJ Kunsthalle!

After that, we decided to change locations. We moved on to a club called D Mansion. For awhile, it was great, and we were all having a blast. I was mostly focused on Ted and Marley, and the music and atmosphere was exhilarating! We danced for hours, only taking a break once in a while to sip on expensive drinks. And Marley really shook her stuff! She was giving me a run for my money on the dance floor.

Then, it happened. Of course, a terrible excuse of a human being had to ruin our good time.

Kelly walked up to us, looking upset, and it was clear that she wanted to leave. I didn’t know why, so we all headed outside to talk. She told us that someone had grabbed her, Donald Trump style. As she was following Jake out of the club to get some air, a man in a horned costume had brushed past her, grabbing her firmly in the crotch. She froze, not sure of what had just happened. He kept walking, turning to grin back at her behind his red face makeup. She started to yell after him, but he was gone. This was no accident, or some cute flirtation, it was sexual assault. Furthermore, we found out that he had done it to at least one other girl before getting kicked out of the club. I couldn’t believe it. Kelly understandably wanted to leave, and so did the rest of us at that point. Then, the devil himself emerged. No really, he was in a devil costume. And he was a foreigner, a Polish guy, not Korean. All I could do was tell Kelly how sorry I was about what had happened to her, and I was deeply saddened. We had to walk past the guy, and Marley shoulder-checked him, a good first step to his punishment.

We were looking for a taxi, and had to walk back towards the club. We saw this piece of shit again, and this time, as we walked by, he said something. I don’t remember the words, I just remember that it was something insulting directed at Kelly. Something vile, conjured up by this lecherous specimen. The moment I heard that, I lost it. For the first time in my life, I got physically violent with a stranger. I wanted to hurt this man, so he could feel something like what Kelly, and who knows how many other women, had felt. I started shouting expletives at him, mostly a lot of “Fuck you!”s. I don’t remember exactly, I was so blinded by rage. He didn’t seem to get the picture or feel any remorse, and he needed more than yelling. I got in his face and pushed him hard. He fell to the ground easily, and squirmed a bit, bewildered. The woman with him, his apparent wife, was flabbergasted, and said “He’s drunk!” as if that was some sort of excuse. I said “So am I! And I didn’t grab anyone like that!” Then one of his friends addressed me. “Hey, talk to me, I’m not drunk, talk to me.” I spat back at him with an “Ok, great! You want to talk? Your friend sexually assaulted my friend! Let’s talk about it!” Behind me, Kelly rushed up, trying to explain to his wife what had happened, and what a monster she had married. Ted, the sweet puppy, ran up as well, clearly unsure of what to do, but ready to defend me as best he could.

Instead of retaliating like I thought he might, the devil stumbled back to his feet, and the group retreated quite quickly. I can only imagine how freaky I must’ve looked, an angry white girl with half of a skull face, fire in her eyes. It was definitely enough to send them running. I yelled after them, saying “Good! Run away! Fuck you!!!” I was truly livid for the first time since arriving in Korea.

When I turned back around toward my friends, everyone was looking on in surprise. It all happened so fast that they didn’t have much time to react. I took a moment to reflect on my altercation with these strangers. How they could try to defend this man was beyond belief. They had nothing to say to me, so they simply took off. At least this made me feel like there was a little justice served, although that guy deserved much more of a beating for what he had done.

I’ve been pondering ever since it happened, about all of the people who have done similar things as this man. How many of these attackers have simply gotten away with it, and had every excuse to absolve themselves of any wrongdoing? We want to tell you, it’s not OK. It’s never OK. Whether you are a man or a woman, and wherever you’re touching, however you’re touching. Even speaking about it in a “joking” way that makes it seem acceptable is abhorrent. I don’t want to get political, but what Trump was caught saying is an example of this. Just because you feel that you have some sort of justification, grabbing anyone inappropriately without their consent is wrong. It is unethical, disgusting, and it makes you a sexual predator. And yet, these people come up with every excuse, or they deny doing it at all. In any public space, be it a bus or a train, a club or a party, anywhere, it is not alright to touch whoever you want, however you want. And don’t say it was an accident, or you don’t remember because you were drunk, or some such bullshit. It is always sexual assault, and if it goes too far, it is rape. No exceptions, no excuses. This cannot be OK in any form in our modern society. We must respect each other’s dignity and our right to say no. Unless express consent is given, do not presume that anyone wants to be touched or talked about in a sexual way.

This also goes for any witnesses of such an act, and anyone subject to this kind of attack. We need to look out for each other, because it can happen to anyone. We must have a sense of solidarity, among women, and among all decent human beings. I understand that we can’t all be heroes and save the day, I’m just asking that you do all you can to help the victims of such an act. Don’t be silent, and don’t be apathetic. This kind of thing happens all the time, especially to women. Some people feel that a woman’s mere existence is that of a sexual object, and this perception must be shifted. Sadly, many of those in power are hypocritical by claiming they’re respectful to women and their rights, after they have done or said things that cannot be forgiven. Still, I have faith in most people, and I think that most of us find sexual assault repugnant and punishable. We should all be aware of the possibility that this could happen, at any time and in any place. Stay vigilant, be aware of your surroundings, and if need be, knock a bitch to the ground. We’re all in this together, and we’re all a part of the same human community. To say that Kelly was uncomfortable with all this is a huge understatement. But she is bravely open about it, because we must keep this discussion going. Let’s spread awareness to this all-too-common behavior, and work to put an end to it once and for all. Together, we can help end the sexism and abusive acts, one devil at a time.

I hope that everyone had a safe and happy Halloween. May the rest of your adventures be safe and happy as well. Hang with trustworthy buddies, enjoy your days and nights, and be ready to lay the smack down for what you believe in!

Halloween homies, together through thick and thin!

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