My parents were visiting from NY, and while my dad went to meet a friend, my mother and I went to Namdaemun Market last Wednesday to buy baby clothes for my sister’s children and other souvenirs. We were by Gate 3; I was buying water, my mother was taking in the marketplace.
I heard a shot in the air and immediately turned around. Something was fluttering, falling to the floor. 2 halmonis (old ladies) working the stalls began swatting at an ajoshi
in his forties.
“Clean it up!” the halmoni said, pushing at the man.
“No, I’m not going to,” the man said, laughing. He was holding a gun.
“Well what are we supposed to do about it?” the other halmoni said, pointing to the floor.
They all seemed to be on familiar terms, just by the way they were interacting, and the man–still laughing, holding the gun in his right hand–sauntered off, with not an inkling of remorse.
I didn’t get a good look at the man’s gun, but I could only assume it was a BB gun. Any other gun would probably be banned, right? Hopefully?
My mother explained that the man had shot a pigeon mid-flight (in the very moment I was buying water). We approached the stall. The pigeon was on the floor, wounded and limping in place.
“The poor thing,” halmoni #2 said. “It’s just going to die like this.”
My mother and I sucked in our breaths in sympathy.
Halmoni #1 was on her cell phone calling in for help, but what more could we do? Chase after a man with a BB gun? No, not unless we also wanted to get shot. Did Seoul even have such a thing as animal control?
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not going to pretend I’m the biggest fan of the pigeon. There are far nobler creatures within the animal kingdom, and after all, I come from a city that imported hawks to address the pigeon population. But I do expect a basic level of humanity in every single person I encounter. If you’re going to be the @sshole that shoots at a pigeon, then at least have the balls to let it die a quick, painless death. Don’t wound one and leave it there to die while someone else cleans up your mess. In a crowded, public place at that.
We had gone to Namdaemun for baby clothes and ground sesame seeds; we left with the images of a grinning, gun-wielding ajoshi and a limping pigeon waiting to die its slow, painful death.