When the Smoke Clears
I really don't like mosquitoes, the dreaded Korean 'mogi'. Recently I related some of my mogi-chasing stories to someone here and she seemed to think it was more amusing than I did. When I got home, I asked my wife, "what's so funny about that?" She told me that Korean people don't usually bother enough about mosquitoes to spend an hour out of bed in the middle of the night chasing one with a newspaper. OK, that's fair enough, I may be a little crazy. But look at it this way - I'm a completer-finisher*. (*I wish - I'm actually a dangerously high scoring 'shaper').
But am I crazy enough to want to run trucks around crowded streets spraying insecticide at everyone? No - so who are the crazy ones now?
I didn't see this the first time I was here, but this summer one day I noticed a cloud of smoke in the distance. My first thought - that some old Hyundai Accent had finally reached its expiry point - proved incorrect.
It was, I was told, mosquito spraying. I'd heard about this, but thought it was a practice largely consigned to the past. Apparently not, it seemed, as the scene was repeated every couple of weeks thereafter.
It didn't look very healthy either, as the truck in our area dashed around the narrow streets spewing a chemical cloud behind it leaving people nowhere to hide.
Obviously, the insecticide is designed to kill mosquitoes rather than people, but I can't help thinking that it can't be particularly healthy, even if it won't kill you. And will this chemical concoction still be seen as safe in future? There was a time when people thought DDT was fine too.
But what I didn't expect, was to see one of these chemical spraying trucks do a circuit of the local school ground every two weeks, enveloping the children practising football in thick clouds of insecticide.
But perhaps this means if the Korean national team ever have to play a game in fog, they're bound to win.
Maybe it doesn't cause any lasting damage though. My wife used to run through the smoke chasing the trucks down the street because she said it was fun. That was when she was a child by the way, not recently - which would be more disturbing.
Now I'm a parent though, I watch that mosquito truck making its regular rounds of the local school, and think one day that could be my child enveloped in a chemical soup. I'm not really thrilled at the idea.
But does it work? Well, this summer was amazing for three months - I didn't see a single mosquito. But just as I was contemplating the notion that actually, it really does work, I read that the unusual weather this year meant that mosquito numbers were down significantly. However, as the autumn arrived they emerged with a vengeance. The mogi-trucks are still doing their rounds, I suppose they would argue that it would be worse if they didn't. But how can we know?