Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Terror At Inchon Airport: shaved-headed Chinese religious fanatic runs with scissors and is arrested by security

So as humorous prelude to my obligatory (serious?) reflections on my time in Japan, I thought I'd tell about (somewhat) funny incident that happened on my return trip home.


Being the cheap Chinese person that I am, I bought a low-price ticket on a Korean airline to go home to Seattle - the route would be from Kansai Airport (Japan) to Inchon Airport (Korea) to SeaTac Airport (USA). The flight from Kansai to Inchon was pretty short, about one and a half hours, most of which I spent listening to my iPod and pounding down glasses of red wine.

When I reached Inchon Airport, I had to pass through another security checkpoint on my way to the gate of my connecting flight. Most of the people on my plane head the opposite direction, to customs... meaning, it's pretty much only me at security. The guards are pretty young looking, maybe about college-age - 1 guy and 3 girls.

Since they notice I've just come off the flight from Japan, one of the girls begins speaking to me in Japanese, giving me instructions to put my bags through the x-ray machine, walk through the metal detector, and asking me to empty my pockets of metal objects. I'm too lazy to go through the complicated schtick of explaining that "I'm Chinese - but an American citizen - I speak English - I know some Japanese and Chinese", so I answer her using only Japanese.

I'm not expecting any trouble, but as I pass through the metal detector, it starts beeping and I think "doh". The security guards didn't look too thrilled either, and immediately, the same girl who was questioning me makes me step to the side to use a metal detector wand on me, which ironically has my name (GARRETT) written on it. I was wearing cargo pants with a lot of metal zippers, but I didn't expect the metal detector to be quite so sensitive to that. My pants starting making the wand beep a lot, so the guard resorts to patting me down.

Being a little bit groggy, I chuckle a little bit as she's patting me down, especially when she sticks her hand in my back pocket and starts fishing around. As I'm trying not to laugh too loud, I catch a look on her face which tells me that she's cleared annoyed - so I stop laughing. Nothing quite like the eye dagger "death gaze" Korean girls can give. But I'm not really so offended, especially given both historical facts and the way that a lot of Japanese people still treat Koreans - since she thinks I'm Japanese, any lack of warm fuzzy feelings between us is understandable.

Just when I think the situation can't get more awkward, one of the other guards checking my bags through the x-ray machine shouts something in Korean to the other guards. They're looking at the screen really closely, and the female guard who was patting me down, comes over to question me again. Maybe she's the only who speaks Japanese.

(The following conversation is all in Japanese)

Guard: Do you have scissors in your bag?
Me: No.
Guard: Can you open your bag please?
Me: OK.

The guard rifles around in my bag for a few minutes and then... pulls out a sharp pair of barber's scissors. She throws an icy accusatory glance at me and holds up the scissors in her in silent "SO WHAT IS THIS?" gesture.

Uh-oh. During the last minute scramble to the airport, I remember my host mother cramming my haircutting kit into one of the pockets of my bag. Since I'm always using the electric clippers to shave my hair, I'd completely forgotten about the barber's scissors in the kit.

How the heck did that manage to slip through Japanese security at Kansai without them finding it?

In about the space of a few seconds, I imagine being arrested at Inchon as a Japanese communist terrorist. They'd ship me by boat to a prison island like in the movie Silmido, where my ass will be beaten with sticks by angry ROK soldiers.

Unconsciously, I switch immediately from speaking Japanese to speaking English and I blurt out the following sentence. Oops... I apologize. Those scissors are from my haircutting kit... I've forgotten I had them. Sorry. I suppose being a little bit nervous made me forget to speak in Japanese.

The guards all look at me stunned - I hadn't spoken a single word of English until now. The male guard immediately speaks to me. You are not a Japanese? he asks is a surprised voice.

I nod and show them my US passport.

It's my mistake for bringing the scissors. I quickly add. I'm sorry for any trouble... I understand that it's against the rules, so please take them away.

The girl guard who wanded / patted me down, smiles and waves to me to go. It's OK, you can go... I will keep the scissors. she says.


Thank you, I reply and I quickly rush off to my gate. I wonder if I'd been in even more trouble if it turned out I really was Japanese...



haha. bust out the english and the problem is solved? nice. good thing you weren't in some iraqi/jordanian/irani airport. engrish could get you decapitated! anyway, i'm headed out to your neck of the woods soon... i'll call your agent ms wong to check your pr schedule.
In all likelihood you wouldn't have been in any more trouble for being Japanese (Koreans always have respect for richer and more powerful entities, even the japanese), but they prolly would have talked alot of smack behind your back after you were gone happy. Now if they thought that you were a mainlander chinese, I'm quite sure you would have been treated with less respect than shown to americans and japanese...Unfortunately koreans by and large still look down on the Chinese , especially the men...but don't fret...once China finishes their demolition of competing korean comanpanies and grow ever powerful, that'll all soon change. --Jung
"Being a little bit groggy, I chuckle a little bit as she's patting me down, especially when she sticks her hand in my back pocket and starts fishing around"


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in?scrip?tion (n-skrip-shun)n.
1. The act or an instance of inscribing.
2. Something, such as the wording on a coin, medal, monument, or seal, that is inscribed.
3. A short, signed message in a book or on a photograph given as a gift.
4. The usually informal dedication of an artistic work.
5. Jeremiah 31:33

the facts.
name. Gar AKA "that Chinese guy" "Sleepy.McSleeping"
ethnicity/nationality. Chinese/American, 4th gen.
location. Sea-Town, WA, USA Kawanishi, JAPAN
occupation. less-cynical poor grad student
age. younger than you think, older than you know



UnseenGC @ AIM
(myname) @ gmail.com



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