Faking it

Monday, October 1st, 2012

  • A Royal guard stands on sentry at Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea, his eyes scanning the massed crowd of tourists stood before him, snapping his picture as if he’s a wax work or celebrity.

    I felt a little sorry for the guard and the many others stood on sentry at the gates of the palace. In their vivid costumes they stand in the sun ‘on guard’ and involuntarily posing with a near constant stream of tourists who stand beside them and make little V signs with their fingers as someone snaps a picture. In addition to their brightly colored costumes, hats, and weaponry, the guards also adorn fake beards stuck to their faces with theatrical make-up glue.

    I stood back and watched for a while as tourists posed for pictures with the guards. I wondered if this was a job that any of the guards really wanted or enjoyed. How many other jobs in the world require you to wear a fake beard? Unlike the Royal Guards in London, this didn’t look like a real career to me. It seemed more like the glorified street theatre, the kind of job a young man might take for a summer or a short time while he saved up money to go and do something far more exciting.