When I first moved to Seoul in December 2013, I had no idea what to expect. After purchasing a Korean-made iPhone 5s, I returned to the store inquiring as to why the shutter sound on my phone wouldn’t turn off when I took photos. The Korean staff informed me that all phones made in Korea make that sound. At the time, I didn’t think much of it, and chalked it up to another factor that makes Korea such a quirky country. However, when I found out the real reason the shutter sound is so common here, I was incredibly creeped out.
As it turns out, voyeurism is an extreme issue in Korea. So much so, that in 2004, the Korean government issued a mandate that rendered it impossible for consumers to disable the shutter sound feature on their phones. These days, offenders can easily purchase hidden cameras in their respective neighborhoods which come disguised as items such as shirt buttons, wristwatches, eyeglasses, pens, remote controls, and USB memory sticks. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t using their cameras.
I’d returned back from a relaxing vacation in Vietnam last with a happy heart and excited to see my boyfriend. It had been a long week, so we decided to get dinner somewhere close to my apartment and stay in and enjoy one another’s company for the night. The pizza restaurant we’d chosen earlier in the evening had a cockroach roaming around outside. I didn’t think much of it of the time, but in hindsight, the bug stayed within my consciousness for the rest of the night.
We decided to call it a night early, so we headed back to mine, unaware of what was to come. After washing our nightly routines of washing our faces and brushing our teeth, I closed and locked the window and turned on the air conditioner in an attempt to combat the muggy outside air that had permeated through the apartment all evening. As always, the two of us entered into a deep slumber, holding one another close.
Around 3:30 that morning, I woke up to a muffled sound just outside my window followed by a series of bright flashes. My consciousness shot me up out of bed, and in my groggy and confused state, I shook James awake, alerting him that there was a “big bug” outside of my window.
“What’s that?!” James screamed.
“What?” I replied, confused by his response.
“THAT!” he shouted, and directed my attention to my window.
My eyes focused on a hand tightly gripping onto the window frame. As we sat there, shaking in fear, the person’s other hand slowly closed the window, and followed by closing the screen without any hesitation whatsoever. The way he closed it was so slowly it was almost as though this wasn’t the first time.
We ran outside to see if we could spot the perpetrator, but he had already fled. Gripped with the fear and realization as to what just happened, I found it difficult to sleep through the night.
As soon as I saw any trace of sunshine, we went outside and discovered an alarming number of hand and finger prints along the pipes and ledges leading up to my window. Unsure as to what to do, I contacted every Korean person that I knew, as I would need a translator to be able to properly handle this situation.
I finally got in touch with one of my former colleagues, and she informed me she would be able to help me as soon as she completed errands. I sat around all afternoon in my house, washing my clothing, bed sheets, and took several showers in an attempt to reduce the feeling of filth.
Once my former colleague finally showed up, she called the police and they arrived in a timely manner. Without any translation from either party, the officers quickly skimmed over my apartment as well as the exterior and piping, which made the situation even more stressful.
They informed me that the same flash that woke me up was most likely from the man’s camera. They stated that others in my neighborhood had made several complaints about a man filming them sleep, which to this day, makes my skin crawl.
Despite knowing this information, less than five minutes into their search, the officers determined that they were unable to do any sort of fingerprint testing because they “thought he was wearing gloves.” I’d also requested they review the CCTV tape that was recently installed outside of my apartment building, but they said there “most likely wasn’t a tape.”
After they left I felt extremely defeated and frustrated. While there was nothing I could have done beyond what I did that afternoon, I feel let down by the Korean police and their failure to take action. To this day, I still find it difficult to go to sleep and I have nightmares from time to time, but I’m just thankful he wasn’t able to enter the building.
How did he manage to climb up eight feet worth of piping? Was he acting alone or did he have an accomplice? Had he been watching me prior to the incident or was this completely random? Some things in life have no answers.