I was trail running in Busan when I came upon a paved road at the top of a large forested hill. I followed the road up until I reached a sign with a drawing of a soldier’s boot stepping on a land mine. I thought for a moment about the likelihood of getting blown into pieces and then continued. The road went up and up. I kept passing more mine warning signs.
After 10 minutes, I found a sign with a different picture. It had a drawing of the kind of missiles that shoot from military trucks and hit far away targets with precision. No English captions. The warning signs seemed to be getting more and more elaborate. I was about to take a picture of the sign with my iPhone when I felt I was being watched. I looked around and realized I had tripped a motion detecting sensor that ran across the road. I stood still for a moment. Then I slowly looked in the surrounding forest for CCTV cameras or the usual stalking commando dressed in a ghillie suit with his face covered in black war paint and who is slowly pulling out a big Rambo knife. With that thought, I tucked my iPhone away and turned around.
I ran the other way. I went down the road thinking it would expedite my run back to the city. It was drizzling, foggy and dark. The road was steep. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Twenty-five. I kept running downhill.
I thought I was near the city when I saw a lamp post at the end of the road. Under the light were bright yellow barricades placed to force cars to zig-zag and slow down. Next to the barricades moved a green shadow. It held a long assault rifle with a bayonet at its end and wore a long, dark green overcoat. I stopped running. I pushed my running hat up to show my eyes so the soldier wouldn’t think I was one of those mysterious characters that emerges from the rain and fog before an ambush. I looked at his face and smiled surprised. The soldier’s eyeglasses were too big and his smile too wide to look menacing at all. He was too small for his coat and rifle. He looked more like a prolific Starcraft strategist than a guard. The little soldier told me I couldn’t go through his post by making an “x” with his two index fingers in the Korean way of gesturing “no”. Then he shook his head and his helmet wobbled a bit which gave him extra cuteness points. I smiled again and turned around.