Why Drunk Ajossis Scare Me

My husband always tells me not to get involved in other people’s business, especially among Koreans. Most of the time, those who meddle in someone else’s affair or play hero here find themselves in big trouble. This is the reason why some Koreans never interfere when others are quarreling. Instead of trying to stop the fracas, they choose to ignore it or “watch” as if they were watching an action movie orK-drama.

Just last month, right after Chuseokmy husband and I witnessed two women getting beaten by an inebriated young man who happens to be their relative. I didn’t expect my husband to get involved, but he did… and I am proud of him for stepping in. He tried to stop the beating, but it angered the drunk man more. Other neighbors heard the commotion, but no one, except my husband, thought of calling thepolice.

When I came to Korea for the first time, I was taken aback when I saw two drunk ajossis fighting in the street. No one dared to get in the way, and somehow I understood why. Everyone was afraid of them.

What if you were minding your own business and all of a sudden, someone you don’t even know comes to you and provokes you? This is what happened to one of my neighbors a few days ago. He was at the parking lot, waiting for his wife, and this intoxicated ajossi spotted him and decided he would make a good sparring partner, so he began swearing and picked a fight with him. My neighbor knew better than to mind an irrational drunk man, so he tried to shun him. When ignoring didn’t work, he asked him to leave him alone, but instead of doing that, the drunk ajossi hit him in the face. He hit him back. The fight escalated. The drunk ajossi fell to the ground, but my neighbor was hurt, too. He was complaining of headache. When his wife came, he told her to call the police. Dizzy, he lied down while waiting for the police to arrive. Curious passers-by had gathered, watching the “drama”. I was watching through the bedroom window. I didn’t actually witness the whole squabble, but I was awakened by two men shouting and then I heard a loud thud. When I opened the window, I saw a man (drunk ajossi) lying on the ground and another man standing in front of him. At first, I thought that it was my neighbor who started the fight, because he was very angry and kept saying the F-word in Korean, but the whole story unfolded when the police came. A few minutes before the police arrived, the drunk ajossi woke up, moaning. He was too intoxicated that they could not interrogate him. What I could not understand is that they just left him there. They didn’t take him to the police station. On the other hand, my neighbor was taken to the hospital. They asked the drunk ajossi to go to the hospital, too, but he refused. He sat down and kept grumbling.


I had an unnerving encounter with a drunk ajossi before. Thank God, nothing serious happened, but since that incident (which I wrote about in a previous post), I have developed a fear of drunk strangers. I still think South Korea is a safe place, but not when I see drunk ajossis around. I avoid them as much as I can, and I would never ever get in their way (unless someone defenseless is getting hurt), but they are everywhere, even in my neighborhood! Some of them are harmless even if they like to make a scene and are extremely loud, but some are inconsiderate and uncouth and should not be tolerated.

From Korea with Love




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Re: Why Drunk Ajossis Scare Me

I was once walking to a restaurant with my Korean friend when we came upon a husband and wife arguing unusually loudly.  Suddenly we looked over and saw the man start punching his wife (a tiny 20-30 something girl) in the face numerous times.  Instinctively, I ran over and shoved the guy off her and held him back.  I had to fight the urge to kick his ass so I wouldn't get in trouble and deported.  If it weren't for the fear of deportation he would've been knocked out cold. 

In the midst of this, I noticed a crowd of Koreans (all ages) standing around and watching...doing absolutely nothing.  The woman had blood dripping all over her sweatshirt, which got on me as well, and all these people could do was watch.  Even my Korean friend stood (at least in awe; most others watched like it was entertaining).  Only after I broke it up and got the guy to calm down did someone come over and call the police.  

Oh, and did I mention that this happened right in front of the couples' two little children of about 6-7 years old?  Yeah, even then, no one cared.  Not one person came over to the woman to help and see if she was okay.  The woman simply walked home from there, holding her kids' hands, while bleeding on her shirt and sobbing.  It was possibly the saddest thing I've ever witnessed in my life.

I mentioned this to my adult classes the next day and some of them told me exactly what you said: I should've minded my own business because it's "a private matter" or that I can be held accountable if the guy blamed me (god knows how or for what).  Others said that they wouldn't do anything because they'd be worried about the inconvenience of having to wait around, talk to police, etc.

The complete lack of concern for anyone who's not friends or family is one of the biggest problems in Korean culture. It's utterly disgusting.

Re: Why Drunk Ajossis Scare Me

@ Skywalker: That's tragic, especially for those kids. We can't blame others if they are too scared to intervene when something like this happens, but at least someone should call the police.

Re: Why Drunk Ajossis Scare Me


I love that you referenced the infamous Kitty Genovese case without even knowing that the famous reaction was mostly an urban myth propagated by the media.  In that case, most people didn't see the murder or at least most of it, and no one actually saw it in its entirety nor clearly.  The article you listed even mentions this, but apparently you didn't even read your own link.

The difference with the situation that happened around me was that from the beginning there was a crowd of people who watched it in its entirety and in plain sight.  I guarantee you that back home most people would've intervened like I did and that some people might've even beat the crap out of the guy.