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This is a question I should have been arrested

Faced with The Law when I and a bunch of equally idiotic mates set off a load of loud explosions down the local chalk pit, we blamed bigger boys who had run off. Tell us of the times when you got away with something naughty and slightly out of order.

Thanks to MatJ for the suggestion

(, Thu 26 Jan 2012, 13:36)
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I've mentioned on here before that I'm an urban explorer. In other words, a recreational trespasser. It's given me some incredibly useful skills as a cop-whisperer. I've been caught many many times, but haven't been arrested since I was 18 (around 1998).

It helps that I'm white. It additionally helps that I live in Korea and I (look like I) don't speak a word of Korean. In truth I get by, but sometimes it works out best not being able to speak the native language.

I'll arrange a few close-call stories in increasing order of seriousness.

1) I was in a large abandoned neighbourhood. Huge tracts of land in Seoul get evicted all at one time, and often spend a couple years wasting away while all the court cases get settled. In a few years, the smaller buildings are all demolished and replaced with very ugly highrises.

In the interim, the buildings are just blanketed off, covered up with these ugly green-and-pink-striped blankets intended not to prevent entry, just protect straying eyes from seeing ugly abandoned buildings. In fact, it's especially easy to get around in blanketed-off areas because you're more well hidden from passersby.

On the other side of some blankets once, we saw a dog in the distance, and the dog saw us. A tiny lapdog, as all dogs that are not meat are in Korea. We kept our distance, but it was barking. Not too long after, we ran into the owner, an old man who refused to leave his home. He was living alone with two dogs in the middle of this abandoned neighbourhood, and rather than do anything about us being there, he asked me to take pictures of his dogs.
The neighbourhood's gone now, and I wonder where he is. Probably living outside the city somewhere.

2) Inside an abandoned office building, we hear a huge racket somewhere above. Followed by below. Eventually, we discover the source: a scrapper is taking whatever has any kind of value and chucking it out the window to collect it below later. Looking back, he probably had every bit as much right to be there as me.

He sees my camera, and asks my ex-wife what we're doing there. She explains the basics of what we're doing. He replies, "I'm so embarrassed on behalf of my company that this foreigner is seeing these abandoned buildings, which will lead him to think Korea is a third-world nation" though in not so many words. He continues on with his work, as do we.

Somewhere in this vicinity:

3) A lot of evictees in abandoned neighbourhoods don't want to leave, so the construction companies hire companies that provide something in between a security guard and hired muscle. They have a set of tactics to hasten the evictions, such as dumping garbage in doorways, graffiti, roughing people up, installing large metal shutters in doorways, arson, defecation, knocking out walls with a sledgehammer, and so on. Some are relatively professional; others are hobos with a jacket and a day's training and a chip on their shoulders.

I got caught by one of them in the middle of an abandoned neighbourhood, not a soul around for at least 100 meters (that's pretty far in a metropolis of 10 million packed into an area a little over 1/3 the surface area of London). Basically, if I screamed nobody would hear me. The conversation went thusly (translated into English as all of this was conducted in Korean):

Goon: What are you doing here?
Me: I'm sorry, I can't speak Korean.
Goon: There are only binjib (empty houses) here. You shouldn't be here. It's a safety hazard.
Me: I don't understand any of what you just said (but you just taught me some very useful words).
Goon: Are you taking pictures?
Me: I'm going now, bye.

A clean escape, and I went back into another part of the neighbourhood for more.

4) One of Seoul's many landmarks, the old Byzantine-style Seoul Station sits in the shadow of the newer, bigger, glassier Seoul Station. That is, until I find a ridiculous exploit in the temporary fencing. Right around the corner from a police station.

I slipped in one night and managed to get some pictures of the amazing architecture.
In back I found a stairway to nowhere, probably once used to go out to the train platform. I was there taking long exposure shots with my tripod (ie www.uer.ca/locations/viewgal.asp?picid=335778 ). To get up the stairs, I had to step over a meter-high temporary fence.

On the way out, camera still mounted in the tripod, I used the tripod to vault over. I landed in the hallway which was pitch black but with light sources at either end, and I saw the silhouette of a security guard about five meters away. Too late to jump back over, so I just crouched and pretended to be taking a picture, looking as nonthreatening as possible. As the guard got closer, his flashlight turned on and it swung around to me. For this conversation I used a bit more Korean because the circumstances were different (he was just a real guard doing his job). Also, ever since one of Seoul's other major historic landmarks was burned down (http://blog.joinsmsn.com/usr/b/s/bsjh2/8/%EB%B6%88%ED%83%80%EB%8A%94%20%EC%88%AD%EB%A1%80%EB%AC%B8-4%281%29.jpg) I've been paranoid of being caught in any kind of historic property, lest I end up public enemy number one along with the arsonist who set that fire.

I explained I was a friend, without really being able to elaborate, and he showed me to the front gate and let me out without any sort of follow-up.

5) I really wanted to get into an abandoned church, and as the demolition crews were starting I knew I had to hurry.
I was suffering from insomnia, so I slipped in one summer morning after dawn before any workers were around. I went in, looked at the wreckage, saw a few workers coming in, and headed out. Security caught me at the front entrance and made it clear I wasn't allowed up here, even though there was still an active church building. They asked for my name and phone number, so of course I gave them an alias and a number that was a couple digits off from my real number. No clue why they were so concerned; probably something to do with demolishing a historic building.

6) I had just moved to a new neighbourhood, and I was out taking pictures of the area to show my parents. I pulled into a parking lot for a second, and suddenly realised I was facing an abandoned building. It was on the edge of a university campus. And there were more abandoned buildings there. It was an entire abandoned university, right in the middle of the city.

This was basically what I saw.
There was a guard box just on the other side of the white mesh gate. I walked in, saw that the security guard happened to not look up, and strolled past. I wandered around a bit, careful to avoid security guards. Then it came to getting out. I couldn't easily go back the way I came.

While walking around one corner, I came face-to-face with a security guard. Well, he was about ten meters off. And he was sort of looking down, at what he was holding in his hands: his own wang which was hosing the ground with urine.

I quietly backed off and he either didn't see me or decided it wasn't the best time to start a chase. I later found a mountain pass that safely took me back to civilisation, and I ended up having many, many return visits.

7) The first time I ever went exploring, a friend brought me to a long row of abandoned apartment buildings. They were about seven storeys high, and the main floors were active while the upper floors were burned out.
We went up and marvelled at the fire damage. On the way down, we spotted a sign we'd passed on the way in. Neither of us knew much Korean, but there was one English word: CCTV. Not knowing who could be watching, we hurried out a different way from where we'd come in.

Walking down the alley, a cop car pulled in behind us. My friend was getting ready to run, but I convinced him to play it cool. The cop car pulled up right behind us, and blared its siren. We casually stepped to the side, allowing it room to pass.

The cop driving saw we were foreigners, and laughed and shook his head, driving on. He probably figured it wasn't worth the trouble, and we were probably just clueless foreigners looking for the washroom.

8) Every September, Koreans celebrate an autumn harvest holiday called Chuseok. It basically involves going back to your hometown for a family feast and ancestral rites. Basically, 30 million Koreans hit the road on the same day (out of 50 million or so) to travel, and most of them are headed away from Seoul. The capital city becomes a virtual ghost town, and it's the perfect time for a bit of 'sploring. I organised a meetup on this weekend, which gathered people from the UK, Canada, the US, Hong Kong, Australia, France, and I think Germany (but they chickened out when they saw the ladder we'd have to climb). The event involved nearly every type of urban exploration: abandonments, whorehouses, rooftopping, active infiltration, draining, and craning.

The meet started on a 20th storey rooftop overlooking one of the busiest intersections of the country. We brought beer and snacks.
Next morning, we went draining under downtown. After that, on the way to meet more people, I remarked "Hey, not only is it Chuseok, but it's also 9/11!" and we made a few "Happy 9/11" jokes.

Next stop was an abandoned university hospital, right across the street from one of Seoul's main train stations. We hopped the fence, found an unlocked window, and slipped in. We were in there for maybe an hour, found the morgue, and climbed up to find a way onto the rooftop. The Australian of our group looked out the window and saw something unusual: a phone booth. We slowly realised that we were overlooking an American army base.

Shortly after, we were accosted by a very angry security guard carrying non-lethal weaponry. He lined us up outside and called the police. Yeah, turns out the US base was on high alert for the tenth anniversary of 9/11. The property owner came, and she looked like she only cared about getting back to her family. We sat around there for an hour as they mused our story of being "artists." The one female of the group was asked how much money she had on her; it was assumed she had taken us three johns there to earn a bit of money. Finally they asked for our ID cards, took down our information, and let us go on our way.

I made the mistake of suggesting we bow in apology to the property owner, and in the time it took us to do that they decided to detain us another ten minutes. Should've just left, no apologies.

No pictures of this place because I promised to delete all the pictures (I did, and undeleted them later, but never uploaded them).

Anyway, this post is probably getting long enough that it should be a crime.
(, Thu 26 Jan 2012, 13:45, 8 replies)

*Looks at watch*


(, Thu 26 Jan 2012, 13:47, closed)
It was a long one
^that's what she said.
(, Thu 26 Jan 2012, 14:54, closed)
I am impressed with your time.

(, Thu 26 Jan 2012, 15:15, closed)
I love reading UE posts. If I wasn't such a lazy git I'd give it a go myself.
(, Thu 26 Jan 2012, 15:13, closed)
good UE story
I never seem to find / make time to do it myself. I've explored a few places, old factories, disused hospitals and a school - 28dayslater.co.uk is my site of choice - but it's always good to read other people's stories and see photos.
(, Thu 26 Jan 2012, 17:04, closed)
28DL are a bunch of utter, utter cunts.

(, Fri 27 Jan 2012, 8:44, closed)
not like you to sit on the fence, janet. ;)
...what makes you say that? They seem pretty intolerant of n00b-like behaviour, admittedly. (I don't really count myself as one of them, I've only posted a couple of reports but I read the forums from time to time)
(, Fri 27 Jan 2012, 16:11, closed)
Arrec Barrwin?
(, Thu 26 Jan 2012, 20:09, closed)

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