Saturday, September 28, 2013

Taxi-kicking US runner taken to Itaewon police box

The 1988 Seoul Olympics

Prologue 1: "Why can't Americans be Punished?"

Part 1:  The Seoul Olympics, 25 years later
Part 2:  The 1988 Olympics and Korean fears of AIDS
Part 3:  Americans and bad first impressions
Part 4:  Reptilian Style: The 'live-or-die general war' against Hollywood
Part 5:  An attack in a boxing ring
Part 6:  Media responses to the boxing ring incident
Part 7:  No more lion: US swimmers' 'prank' becomes 'diplomatic incident'
Part 8:  KAIST catches Big Ben
Part 9:  Hankyoreh interviews Korean witness to theft by swimmers
Part 10: Stop me if you've heard this one: Four GIs head to Itaewon in a taxi...
Part 11: Taxi-kicking US runner taken to Itaewon police box
Part 12: NBC uses the power of t-shirts to insult Korea... again
Part 13: Cultivating outrage toward America
Part 14: Politicians engage in damage control
Part 15: Heaven on Earth
Part 16: Hustler magazine tramples the purity of the Korean race 
Part 17: Stolen gold

Part 11: Taxi-kicking US runner taken to Itaewon police box

On September 28, after publishing reports on the 24th about the arrest of American Swimmers in Itaewon and on the 26th about the GIs in Itaewon, the Donga Ilbo published the following article about an American and a taxi... in Itaewon:
More violence, this time by an American track and field athlete
Smashed the door of a taxi when it honked at him for standing in the street

At 9:50pm on September 27 in front of Finland Sauna in Itaewon in Seoul's Yongsan-gu, American Olympic 800m runner Johnny Gray (28) used his foot to dent the door of Seoul taxi number 4pa4693, driven by Oh Byeong-yang (45), and was taken to the police.

According to Mr. Oh, Gray and eight others were standing in the middle of the street and when he honked at them to get them to move, Gray suddenly kicked the front right-hand side door and dented it.

Though Mr. Oh protested from his car, Gray and the others ignored him and ran off, and they were caught by riot police working in the area.

Police received a confirmation of Gray's identity from Vincent, the U.S. Embassy consular officer dealing with the incident, and released Gray early in the morning on the 28th.

Police plan to summon Gray today or tomorrow to investigate further.
Biographical information about Johnny Gray can be found here.

AP also published an article that day which includes a rather interesting detail not mentioned in the Donga Ilbo report:
U.S. Track Athlete Arrested For Kicking Taxi

U.S. Olympic runner Johnny L. Gray was arrested for kicking a taxi and is the third American athlete to be detained for unruly behavior in the past week, police said today.

Authorities said Gray was seized by police after he became involved in an argument with a taxi driver Tuesday night.

The driver said he blew his horn at Gray because the runner was blocking the road. Gray kicked the taxi and then tried to flee, but was caught by police, authorities said.

Gray was questioned at a police station, then released in the custody of U.S. Embassy officials, police said.

Ron Rowan, an attorney for the U.S. Olympic Committee, said Gray and three unidentified companions complained that the cab was driving dangerously and almost hit them. Gray was acting in self-defense, Rowan said.

The taxi driver chased the Americans with an object that appeared to be a tire iron, but did not hit anyone before police intervened and detained Gray, Rowan said.

Rowan said the driver had been compensated for the damage.

The case was forwarded to the Public Prosecutor for possible action on charges of violent assault, police said. But the case was considered minor and it was unlikely that any major action would be taken against Gray, a police officer said.

Gray finished fifth in the 800-meter run. He won the U.S. Olympic trials in the event and was national champion in 1985, 1986 and 1987.
There was certainly no mention of a tire iron in the Donga Ilbo report. And charging someone with 'violent assault' for kicking a car? How is anyone supposed to take that seriously? As it was, the case began and ended that night and went no further. But for a first hand account of what happened, the The Atlanta Journal once again interviewed a witness to what happened that night in an October 1, 1988 article titled "McKay Puts in His Time and Then Flies Home, Happy to Leave Seoul." The article is based on an interview with Anthony McKay, who ran two heats in the men's 4x400 relay in Seoul and was with Gray that night.
Socially speaking, McKay isn't exactly planning on staying and working for the Seoul Chamber of Commerce. He was in Itaewon, Seoul's No. 1 shopping district, with half-miler Johnny Gray the night Gray was arrested for an altercation with a taxi driver.

McKay said the incident was misrepresented to the police and misreported by Seoul's newspapers, and generally frightening.

"There were eight of us," said McKay. "I was there with my mother. Johnny was there with his wife. Dennis Mitchell's mother was there. It was around 10 p.m. and we were just shopping around.

"Next thing we know this taxi is coming up over the curb, I guess to make a U-turn. Johnny put his foot out to stop the cab from going through us. That's when the driver jumped out, opened his trunk and pulled out a lead pipe."

McKay said some Koreans nearby began chasing the Americans. He said Mitchell tried to keep people from grabbing Gray, who was wearing a U.S.A. jacket.

McKay accompanied Gray to the police station where McKay said they sat for five hours. At 4 a.m. they were told to go home, McKay said, but not until they'd paid 75,000 Korean won for damage done to the taxi. That's approximately $100.

"You just get an anti-American sense here," said McKay. "A lot of things have been nice here but some of it I won't miss."
One more time: "McKay said some Koreans nearby began chasing the Americans." Which had happened early in the morning and in the evening of the 24th in Itaewon as well (and it could be argued that the same had happened in the boxing ring in Jamsil on the 22nd). Of course, the involvement of  'concerned citizens' in the Itaewon incidents was omitted from most reports, and though this, like the incident with the soldiers, ended soon after it began, unlike the swimmers' ordeal, it served to add more fuel to the anti-American fire. In fact the Donga Ilbo article above was on the same page as another article involving Itaewon and insults to the Korean people by NBC. We'll save that tale for tomorrow.

1 comment:

King Baeksu said...

From the Donga Ilbo:

"According to Mr. Oh..."

"Though Mr. Oh protested from his car..."

"Police received a confirmation of Gray's identity from Vincent..."

"Police plan to summon Gray today or tomorrow to investigate further..."

Once again, we find a Korean journalist unable or unwilling to get both sides of the story. If they were "unable" to do so, they were incompetent. If they were "unwilling," they're shameless hacks. Either way, they suck, especially in light of this bit of information:

"Next thing we know this taxi is coming up over the curb, I guess to make a U-turn. Johnny put his foot out to stop the cab from going through us. That's when the driver jumped out, opened his trunk and pulled out a lead pipe."

Sounds to me like the taxi driver potentially ruined the key tools of their trade, namely, their legs. I'd be pissed, too!

I wonder how many Korean reporters or journalists have seen "Rashomon"? It should be required viewing before they are allowed to print or record a single word.