They separated us (sort of, we were within earshot of each other) and, with an interpreter by my side, the cop proceeded to ask me a litany of questions and enter the answers into a computer.
"What was your job in America?"
"What does 'Roundface Theater' mean?"
"Do you know that it is illegal to do a performance without permission?"
"Are you aware that Korea has FOUR distinct seasons?"
They informed us that we were busted on two counts:
First, (according to them) we had violated our visas by engaging in activities other than teaching. I informed them that we were only a drama club, that this was just a hobby, since no money was being made after expenses. I asked them if all "hobbies" were considered violations of visas. Must I give up my stamp collection for fear of deportation?
Second, they said that we were breaking the law by staging a performance without permission from the government. I still never got an answer out of them whether this "law" pertains only to foreigners, or must all Koreans get permission before any performance. I asked the main cop, the undercover woman who actually came to the show, whether I needed permission to play one song on the guitar, or to read a poem in front of a group. To this she replied, "yes." I told the investigators that in the West we have a tradition of comedy and satire, but this was lost on our poor interrogators, as satire is rather hard to describe to your average irony-free Korean. What I did say is that coming from other developed nations, we had just assumed that, like the rest of the free world, Korea respected freedom of speech. That seemed to raise their hackles a bit, but the truth had to be told. Why else would they be hauling in scores of English teachers for two hour interrogations about our little weekend amateur play? The fact is that there IS no free speech here, despite the fact that the locals pat themselves on the back and congratulate each other that no longer are they under the iron fist of Park Chung Hee.
I will say that the investigators were quite polite and never attempted to overtly intimidate us. They were just collecting information, though asking some ludicrous questions.
Finally, at the end of the interview, the question of drug use came up. Some piece of shit, some douchebag, some complete tit has been spreading rumors around town there were drugs being done and sold at the show. This is a rank pile of horseshit. These rumors are utterly baseless and completely ridiculous, and WHOEVER THE SHITBAG WORM IS THAT IS SPREADING THEM SHOULD MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN RIGHT NOW and THEN the cops will have a real reason to question me after I boot your fucking head in. So the cops told Steve and I that we were under suspicion for drug use. I vehemently denied any such thing, but in the end we agreed to on-the-spot piss tests just to get them off our backs. We were both negative, of course, and hopefully the cops will stop barking up that tree, as in this country, there is no difference between POSESSION of drugs and a POSITIVE drug test result. And testing positive will land you in jail for weeks or months as you await deportation. I have a great gig over here and don't want to jeopardize that over a hit of weed.
After the pee test we were fingerprinted and let go. They tried to get names of everyone else involved in the production, and told us the information we gave will be given to the prosecutor who will decide on further action. I have a hunch that Steve and I will be hit with stiff fines.
What became painfully clear to me during all of this was that the cops were coming after us because of the content of the show. The breaking of the other laws is just a pretext to hassle us for having the nuts to make fun of Korean people in positions of authority, people like themselves. But we went after everyone, no one more so than ourselves, but in this country that takes itself way too seriously, a country without irony or satire, this is a dangerous thing to stir up, especially if you are a foreigner.
When they asked me why we did the show, I told them that we just wanted to make people laugh, that we wanted to have FUN. I told them we were sorry if some of the material went to far, but in our culture, this is just cause for a shake of the head and a sigh, not a trip to the police station.
I'll be contacting the US Embassy tomorrow, not that I expect any assistance, but they should know that this is going on. They're notoriously useless for supporting citizens abroad, unless your daddy's one of Bushies big donors.
Go ahead and fine me. I'll be like Sting in "Quadrophenia" and pay it on the spot. Then I'll mount the ticket and frame it, placing it in a prominent spot above my desk.