Saturday, 9 March 2013

(Day 231) Seoul Nambu Correctional Facility-day 136 D-20

Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner = March 1

The incident with the guards about an inmate's knit cap really bothered me. There are other inmates with clothing items that they obviously didn't get through the prison system, so why did they single this guy out? They really make an effort to make everybody conform to the rules which is natural for prison, but it seems to me like they make up some of the rules as they go along sometimes, or only some rules apply to some people. Like the time I was told to wear my jacket with my inmate number on it all the time. I see inmates often not wearing a jacket but none of the guards bother them. Or the playing cards. I understand they are contraband because the inmates that are sharing a cell will gamble and that's a no-no, but then again, they sell Go/Stop cards and Go/Stop is a gambling game, too. Besides, I can't gamble with myself in solitary playing solitaire... or I could and I'd be guaranteed to win every time, so who would I be harming? All I'm doing is passing time while doing time. Where's the harm in that? Does it make things too easy on the inmate? Is that the reason? Do they want the prisoners to be as bored as possible, so they will spend lots of time contemplating the error of their ways?

During the 3 roll calls of the day and every time the TV turns on or off, there are two songs that are played every time. One of the songs has an accompanying cartoon. I don't understand the lyrics in Korean, but through the cartoon, I get the gist. Pure re-education propaganda.

The cartoon is done in a common Asian cutesy style and has an old lady crossing the street while the light is red, when a giant hand (the hand of God?) suddenly comes out of the sky, picks her up and puts her back down on the curb. Then, it cuts to an old lady talking loudly on a cell phone when the giant hand comes from the sky, plucks the phone from her hand and gives her a hand sign with a graphic indicating cell phones are not allowed. The next cut shows a guy in an office smoking. The giant hand comes down, takes the cigarette and exchanges it for a No Smoking sign. Then it shows a drunken guy, with a necktie tied around his head Rambo-style and holding a soju bottle, about to get into a car. The hand of God descends to pick him up and puts him in a taxi, all while the music repeats a phrase over and over. At the end, the old light lady, the guy and some previously unseen kid are dancing hand in hand in a nice field as the key phrase repeats over and over. I see this cartoon at least 3 times a day and hear the song 2 more times. My understanding is that it says “following the rules is good.”

There is another song that is also played first thing in the morning, at every roll call and every time the TV turns off. It repeats the same key phrase as a cartoon does about rules. That’s the only Korean phrase I understand out of both songs. I have no idea what they are actually saying about the rules just that the songs involve the Korean word for “rules.”

Finally, at 9 pm when the TV turns off for the evening and an hour later the lights go dim, signaling it's time to sleep, a woman's voice comes on over the speaker system with calm, relaxing, classical music playing in the background and she drones on for about 5 minutes in a soothing voice as the music sets a mood. Again, I have no clue what she is actually saying, but the tone just screams “brainwashing propaganda.”

Often during the day, there will be some sort of announcement over the speaker system. I'm sure that what they are saying is vitally important, but I don't understand and no one offers to inform me what it all means. For 5 months I've been blindingly following what all the other prisoners are doing, which is both good and bad. Bad, because I don't like blindly following anybody-- who does? Good, because I don't understand all their attempts at conformation, propaganda or brainwashing and I can plead ignorance of all the rules-- even the ones I really do understand.

I finally got the right menu.