I was driving home, about half an hour ago when I came upon a scene that may haunt my thoughts for a while. Along Hangang-no Boulevard, just north of Shinyongsan Station, the traffic began to slow down and I noticed about four men standing in the road, directing traffic around something. I assumed the obstacle was one or two cars involved in a fender bender, something I've encountered frequently on Seoul roads.
But as I slowly approached, it was obvious there was no car. There was a person lying in the road, motionless. Instinct had me reaching for my cell phone to call 119, Korea's emergency number, but I quickly saw that there were already people around this person handling this: surely one of them would have called for an ambulance.
But it became very apparent that it was too late for that. The body faced downward, into the pavement, and the head was in a pool of blood. The four men were not attempting to revive the man, whose suit jacket was bunched up around the upper torso, which was another clue to the obvious.
Other than a medical cadaver, it was the first time I had seen a dead body in person. More than the blood or the fact that the man was dead, it was the method of dying that had me so rattled and disturbed. The likely salaryman was lying in the middle of a major thoroughfare, meaning that, unless he was actually thrown from some vehicle (doubtful, since there was no damaged vehicle around), he had been jaywalking.
Jaywalking among sober people is not unusual, but given the time of day (around midnight) and the location (a wide boulevard with plenty of cars and buses in both directions), it is more probable (though not certain) that the victim was inebriated. Too much soju and/or beer impairs the judgement enough that jaywalking across eight lanes of traffic seems doable.
Unfortunately, this happens all too often in parts of the city, especially around "entertainment" areas. As a driver, one of my darkest fears is the possibility that I might plow into a drunk jaywalker. Another related fear is that some child will run out in front of my car and I won't be able to stop.
In fact, I have had a few near misses, as have other people I know. One might be driving down a highway, scanning normally for headlights, traffic signals, and lines painted on the road, when suddenly a person is standing where a person shouldn't be. Sometimes it is too late to brake or swerve out of the way.
This man almost certainly left behind loved ones who will miss him. Maybe a wife and children who will grow up fatherless, maybe even penniless. My sadness for their loss gives way to anger that someone would so fucking foolishly -- and selfishly -- drink themselves into such a stupor that stepping into traffic doesn't set off alarm bells in their head or in the head of those with them. The effects of stupidity rarely stop with the stupid themselves.
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