The No-Look Ahjumma*

It happened again this weekend. I was struck by a Korean woman who didn’t look behind her when she was backing up. I’ve been struck so often by Korean women when they are backing up that I have lost count, but I suppose it is at least a biannual occurrence. 

I do remember the first time. It was December 1997 and I was at Kimpo (now Gimpo) Airport. I had been in Korea less than an hour and I was in the crosswalk with a crowd of people when this lady in a second generation Hyundai Sonata suddenly started backing up right into the crowded crosswalk. The Koreans around me didn’t seem fazed. They got out of her way, shouted, or banged on the back of her car. I froze like a deer caught in the head lights. If I hadn’t been with a large group of people I am sure I would have been squashed like a bug and my career as an ESL teacher would have been very short.

The Koreans who had come to the airport to pick me up laughed it off. The man assured me that male drivers in Korea are much better than woman drivers in Korea. The woman told me that only ahjummas* were dangerous. I accepted their assurances without commentary, but made a mental note to myself: Walk, bike and drive at your own risk.    

The most recent incident occurred at Tanhyun Emart in Ilsan. Anna was driving and I was sitting in the front seat. We were in the parking lot. There was one SUV in front of us and there were numerous empty parking places. The SUV appeared to be continuing past the first row and we assumed it was heading to the second row when it suddenly decided to back up at full speed. The SUV hit us with enough force to send BoA half-way into the front seat.

I immediately jumped out of our car and approached the SUV with one of those “what-the-fuck-do-you-think-you-are-doing?” looks. Anna had both of her hands on her stomach and was in a state of shock obviously for herself and the baby. Amazingly, there was only minor damage to the bumper and the license got damaged when the woman drove her SUV forward again.

When the woman saw me she said in English, “Sorry, [nervous laugh] no look.” She then went and talked with Anna. When I asked Anna later about what the woman had said, Anna admitted that she had confided to her the same thoughtlessness she had mentioned to me. She simply hadn’t looked behind her when she backed up. All I could think about was: What if there had been a child walking behind her SUV in the parking lot when she was backing up? We survived because we were in a minivan, a child wouldn’t have had it so good.

* I can’t seem to get wordpress to support Korean. I have uploaded the ko_KR.mo file and have added the define language to my config.php, but when I type in Korean all I get is questions marks. For example here is ahjumma written in Hangeul: ???.

One Response to “The No-Look Ahjumma*”

  1. Randy Nichols Says:

    I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    – Randy Nichols.

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