It’s time to talk about Busan Boy, a complicated story from 2020. Below you’ll find two posts that I wrote but never published until now.
This was originally written on May 4th, some days after the fallout with someone I had considered a friend. I couldn’t bring myself to publish it at the time.
From a FaceBook post I made around that time:
“I have been dealing with the devolvement of Busan “friend” to to the near worst possible ending that has involved changing my phone number and contemplating filing a police report. Somewhere along the line between meeting on a language exchange app and eating dinner together I started to have some feelings for this guy but realized they were not returned and in addition, his mixed signals (and some red flags) were not good for my health. So I told him I was busy and it was best not to spend time together anymore. Let me emphasize we hung out four times under absolutely platonic circumstances; nothing happened at all, ever. He made a point of emphasizing how platonic we were and never made any moves which is why his sudden possessiveness threw me off balance. He did not like my friendship rejection.
I received a rambling six paragraph long response that he was sorry if he did something wrong but also it was my fault and I didn’t value our friendship and chose random guys over him. I sent one final message and blocked him on KakaoTalk (primary WiFi messenger in Korea). Unfortunately I had also given him my number weeks ago and almost immediately I received 16 calls in a row and a text message that said he wanted to know what he did wrong, then that I treated him like sh** and owed him money for the birthday dinner that he “wasted money and time” treating me to. (Please note that he showed up 40 minutes late to the birthday dinner he offered to buy me). “Transfer it ASAP I don’t care how busy you are”. I blocked that number and then the second number he switched to phone bombing me with.”
This is very suspect in Korea– your phone number is tied to your ID card to people rarely have more than one. Now matter how many times I hit “end” he wouldn’t stop calling. I couldn’t even block his number because he called immediately again and again. I finally had to turn my phone off and change SIM cards so that I could contact coworkers and friends to get help and ask what my legal options were. Later it would turn out he had one phone for his Korean girlfriend and the other presumably to stalk foreign women. I’m very thankful that my two dear friends in the US stayed on video chat in their middle of the night with me for hours while I called my coworkers to ask for help. I didn’t feel like being alone and was shaken up.
“C helped me change my phone number this morning and offered to help file a police report if things escalate. She will also tell security at school about the situation so they can be on the lookout. I hope jolly security guard is filled with murderous rage. Other wonderful friends have offered a place at their house in case I feel unsafe at mine. They have also offered to call him and threaten him with the police but I’m holding off on that now since he seems unstable and I don’t want to poke the bear.”
C ultimately decided not to tell the security guards because then the principal and VP would know which could reflect poorly on me. I understand her decision although at the time it made me feel like I had brought this upon myself.
“He is likely all talk and only knows the general subway stations where I live and work but I’m taking all precaution. I’m angry, which makes me less scared, but doesn’t make me more safe. Can you believe he’s an elementary school teacher and worked for an non profit for two years? Are NGOs breeding grounds for narcissists? He has learned no empathy or self awareness. What a little weasel.”
In the weeks following his abrupt and frightening change of behavior, I spent a lot of time looking over my shoulder.
After all, if someone I thought I could trust became angry when I established boundaries, how much further could he go? Men’s violence towards women is notoriously under-punished in South Korea and it has one of the highest rates of female murder in the world: more than half of homicide victims are women.
The experience was upsetting and scary and disappointing. I was not only disturbed but felt especially foolish to be duped into allowing myself to have feelings for someone this bad. I felt like I couldn’t trust my own judgement.
Luckily, Busan has been a blessing in curbing strange men and that’s one honest reason why I was so relieved to move out of Seoul. I’m incredibly grateful to all the good men in my life but also a bit wary of the rest.
Almost a year has passed since then but when I think about dating a Korean man, at least one from the internet, my insides go cold and all I can ask is, will I have to live through this again? One narcissist is enough for a lifetime.
I wish I could say I’m healed and free but that’s a lie.
I’m still afraid and I realized so when I could feel my heart rate pick up as I waited for the bus. Could he be on it? Did I ever offhandedly mention any personal information like school name or bus number?
The chances of him finding me are slim. But they’re not zero and that is a fact my brain can’t let go.
I know living in constant fight or flight is detrimental to my health at a chemical level— adrenal fatigue can cause weight gain. Not good for the body recomp plans I have!
It’s impossible for me to reconcile the person he was face to face, cracking jokes in a cute oversized sweater, to the person he was at the end: accusatory, spiteful, possessive, frightening.
I can’t imagine the things he texted coming out of his mouth.
I still wake up and check my phone with a tiny flicker of fear that an unknown user will have sent me a Kakao message. After all, my user ID still sits in the list of messages on the language exchange chat from months ago. And unfortunately, changing my phone number is 100 times easier than changing my Kakao ID.
I hate that I’m not over the fear from its fallout. Especially since “it” was not much of anything to begin with.
Is my fear even justified? I feel guilty for that, too.
I’m worried about his ex girlfriends. Are they okay? I’m worried about the new foreign friends he collects to fill his empty spaces. I’m worried about accidentally seeing him. I’m worried about being looked for. I’m worried about being found.
My mind is spinning a doomsday scenario.
I want to forget that a barely friend of two months could turn into this. Because then I won’t have to assume the worst of every man I meet. I won’t have to think so much about how he can use my phone number to hurt me. I won’t have to research knife self defense and submitting restraining orders as a foreigner. I won’t have to make up stories or change subway cars.
But I’m not there yet. It’s happened and now the possibility will always exist.
Distrust is heavy and I’m tired.
June 13, Dating
C randomly updated me about Busan Boy who I frankly never want to hear about again. She told me it seems like both numbers he harassed me from belong to him, contrary to our original supposition that one belonged to his girlfriend.
He has two numbers with two separate set of photos of him with two different women. So, two numbers for two different girlfriends.
Obviously hearing more about the biggest mistake I made makes me feel real good.
I asked her why she keeps checking his profiles.
“Because it’s fun.”
“For you!!” I countered.
I’m glad my pain could be so entertaining. *Beleaguered sigh*
And while I don’t take it personally that she’s interested in a little drama, I am a little concerned that it’s funny instead of a blight to the image of Korean men. Maybe if she knew that he along with a few other less thrilling experiences have completely turned my mind around to dating locals, it would be a little less entertaining. I already have to be worried about upskirt photos, secret filming, and an abysmal lack of protection for myself and women against sex crimes, and now I have to worry also about every new “friend” I meet.
The whole situation is also embarrassing– I’ve always prided myself on smelling male BS from a thousand yards away but this one slipped through and stank up the place. How can I trust my nose from now on?
I’m currently wrestling and also trying not to ruminate over beliefs of half the Korean population. Are they all narcissistic cheaters who collect foreign women as prizes and send threatening messages when they don’t get their way? Of course not.
But now that it’s happened to me, the fact is that every encounter going forward, backward, and sideways forces me to ask myself the real reason a Korean man started talking to me and what he may be hiding.
I few months ago I thought I had gotten over the experience completely and decided to try my hand at Tinder in Busan. After the fifth swipe I came across a cute, nice-looking boy with fun hobbies and that’s when I felt my teeth clench and threw my tablet down. Remember the last internet person you thought was cute and nice?
I deleted the app right then and realized maybe I wasn’t quite ready, after all. The internet is just too unknowable. (And let’s be honest, Tinder is not famed for an abundance of regular, kind people.)
I figure what I can continue to do is cultivate strong relationships with good people, build my community, and keep my heart open because life is a coin with two sides.
And let’s stick to making friends in person, yeah?