Smoke Twenty Five

That’s when I realised you were some kind of environmental activist. It wasn’t until we were inside the lobby of the hotel however that I finally realised the ‘costume party’ we were crashing was in fact an international conference on ocean pollution. The conference, hosted by the local electronics magnate, had attracted over two hundred delegates. All of whom were now sipping silver champagne and bravely navigating the canapes, mingling in the refreshments area in the hotel lobby, and out on the wide balcony too. A heated intellectual air prevailed, caused by the day’s final plenary speaker, an expert on oil slicks from one of the Submerged Islands. Her presentation on undersea exploration and drilling had polarised opinion both within the cohort of the conference but also in the local media. The seemingly friendly Jeju-do police – sniffing a demonstration amidst the white noise of street vendor talk, the cross traffic of helium wireless and the swift removal of hand-pasted printouts from OT poles and overpasses – quickly moved in, cancelling basketball practice for a dozen off-duty dozers and preparing a riot shield wall outside the conference venue. No demonstrators arrived.

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