Ahh, My Old Friend, Metaphor

One morning, you go outside to get your newspaper and find your next-door neighbor carefully unscrewing your mailbox.  Confused, you head over to ask what he’s doing.

“This is a pretty nice mailbox.  Thought I’d just put it up in my yard,” he replies.

“But it’s MY mailbox,” you say.

Your neighbor pauses, gives the mailbox a careful once over, and says, “Really? I don’t see your name on it.”

“But… I get my mail from it every day! It’s in my yard!”

“Never seen you get your mail from it.  I put up a note on the bulletin board next to my front door asking whose it was.  Nobody responded,” he looks pointedly at you.

“You did what?” you ask, stunned.  You glance over his shoulder and realize that you can’t actually see his front door from your house.

Your neighbor ignores you, “And since the missus likes the way it goes with the drapes, I just thought I’d move it over to my yard.” He goes back to unscrewing it from the post.

“Hey… HEY!  Seriously now.  That’s mine!” You smack his hands away.

Your neighbor glares at you.  After a moment, he throws up his hands and says, “Fine. But just remember, I tried to be nice.”

He walks around you and through your front door.  You dash after and find him in your kitchen, talking on his cell. “Yeah, honey?  They’ve got some nice silverware over here.  What do you think? Yes?  Alright, I’ll bring it over.”

He pauses, listening, then says, “Hold on, I’ll check.”  He walks to your fridge and opens it, “Yup, looks like they’ve got some chicken and… yeah, cheese and milk and...ooh, pie.”

He hands you a large grocery bag and, to your stunned disbelief, starts emptying your fridge into it.

When he finishes, he glares at you, “Well?”

“Well, what?” you say.

“Are you gonna carry that back to my house or not?”

“Are you out of your mind?!”

“Well, you made a stink about that mailbox so I’m taking your house too.  Oh, and you’re gonna have to help my wife with the work around our place, ‘cause I’m going to be pretty busy over here.  Hey, you married?  Got any kids?  Because we’re trying to refinish the bathrooms and do some landscaping, so we’ll need everybody to pitch in.”

You are about to furiously beat him to a pulp and throw him out of your house when you realize that his sons have quietly entered behind you.  His eight, muscle-bound, sons.  And they’re looking at you and cracking their knuckles in what would best be described as a threatening manner. You and your family have just been shanghaied into a life of slavery.

Fast-forward two months.  Your neighbor (surprise, surprise) has been a bit of a bully with the rest of the neighborhood, too.  Thankfully, everybody has had enough, and they band together to beat the stuffing out of him and his beefy sons.  Formal apologies are drawn up, and lists are generated of all the stolen stuff he has to return.

You and your traumatized family get back to your house and take a look around.  He’s turned it into a modern, high tech office.  It’s got a nice, new computer and an ultra sleek desk, but you’re not sure how you’ll fit your life back together.  Glancing out the front window, you spot your neighbor and realize with outrage that he’s again unscrewing your mailbox.

You sprint outside, furious, and shout, “HEY!  You leave that alone!”

“What?  This?”  He gestures at the mailbox, “But this is mine.”

“No… no it isn’t.  It’s mine.  I’m pretty sure we’ve been over this.”

Your neighbor pulls out the list of items to be returned and theatrically goes through it. “I don’t see it on here.”

You shake your head. “That’s a mistake.  It should be on there.”

Your neighbor shakes his head sadly. “This mailbox has been in my family for at least 2 months.  It’s special to us.  It has a history with us.  I don’t see why I should give it up to you.  Especially after I’ve been so nice and helped you fix up your home and gave your kids an education in landscaping, interior design, and housework.”

“You put that down this instant and get off my property!”

Your neighbor asks, “Do you have a receipt proving it’s yours?”


He gives a diplomatic nod and says, “You’re just a bit overwrought.  I claimed this mailbox fair and square when it was clear that it didn’t belong to anybody two months ago.  It isn’t really nice of you to try and say it’s yours now.”


“Look… I’m trying to be nice here…”


Irritated?  Kind of pissed off?  Imagine how South Korea feels.

A BBC Profile on the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute

The New York Times' take on the issue

The story about a South Korean athlete who was banned from the medal ceremony for  speaking out on the issue at the olympics

A Washington Post story about the most recent flare up

An Op-Ed in the Korea Times on the Dokdo issue