An old man in the subway car near the seats reserved for the elderly, the handicapped, and pregnant women, grips the rack above with one hand; next to him is an older hiker, weighed down by heavy gear on his back, who carries his jacket, a second bag, and his age like a shield in front of him. The two men are standing close so that elbows will touch when the subway rattles.


The old man explains to the hiker that she was feeling sick. An old woman is lying down, taking up two seats. The old man and the old woman, probably husband and wife. The hiker retorts that if she sick, why not take the ambulance instead of the subway? Someone on the other side of the old woman offers a free seat to the hiker. That doesn't mollify the hiker. The hiker continues to complain, irritating the man into yelling at the hiker to take the free seat. That's when the hiker glares at the man (skip ahead to 1 minute 19 seconds in the above video to see the fireworks).

A punch to the face is not so bad when the force of the punch travels sideways, buffered by the layers of muscle and fat of the cheeks. Your teeth shake and your heart starts pumping blood fast, preparing you to return the favor. Remember that the next time you say or write that overused expression.

Instead, be specific. A punch to the face doesn't have quite the impact that a punch to the chin has. There, the punch connects to nothing but bone, and the chin carries those deep vibrations all the way down the jawline, into the back of the skull and your brain tells your body to play dead.

The man's body slumps down as his legs weaken, but his left hand managed to maintain grip on the rack. Bystanders rush to stop the altercation too late. That's the end of the YouTube clip, but the uploader's transcript of what the hiker said next showed that the hiker's aggressive behavior did not subside: "Do you know how old I am? I'm 79 years old. You know how much this watch costs? It's 10 million won (about 9000 USD). What? You want to die?" and so on. I don't know if it was a gift or not, but the hiker should have mentioned $9000 from the beginning to strike terror into his opponent.

Korean forums and news sites and the original uploader were quick to shake their heads in disapproval of the hiker's behavior. I hear that Japanese forums and even some American sites got wind of this and made some nasty generalizations about Koreans—namely, that this sort of behavior was expected from Koreans. I propose that the hiker is not the villain of this story. The woman had no right to be lying down, especially in a crowded subway and both men lost their tempers. In this little incident, only one person did the right thing by Korean etiquette, and that was the unseen benefactor who gave up a seat for the elderly hiker. It's a strange juxtaposition of both selfish and selfless conduct.

That's how it is, isn't it? You never see the people who did the right thing.

The Outlaw of Gyeongchun Line [Youtube]