It seems to me that not using earphones in the subway or other public places was never a problem a couple of years ago in the days of 2G (second-generation) cell phones. I recall walking from compartment to compartment looking for a seat, and subconsciously becoming amazed at how many people were reading newspapers or books. The ones who were using their cell phones were either playing pre-installed cell phone games or sending text messages. I remember this clearly, because this was an observation I had made not too long after I moved back to Korea in six years, and it was a time when everything I saw around me made a lasting impression. While I am aware that what I registered back then reveals only a small part of the entire picture of what people actually did with their cell phones in subways, I can still say with certainty that none of the small talks or paper rustles I had heard in subways were ever interrupted by the sounds of a television program coming from one’s phone.
Now, however, the development of smarter devices seems to have mysteriously led people to believe that their need for television entertainment excuses them from the limits that their surroundings imply. It seems that just because high-definition television is easily accessible on the spot, people think that a highly anticipated soccer game or their favorite soap opera is their top priority for the moment. Consequently, others’ right to enjoy a peaceful and quiet subway ride is dismissed in an instant. What baffles me the most about this phenomenon is not the actual sounds I hear, but the nonverbal message I hear from some people’s inconsiderate actions. You would think that being the source of an endless stream of laughter, screams, and loud talk in the midst of silent passengers in a packed compartment – and receiving several looks in the process as well would make that person squirm in self-conscious discomfort, but no. Either remaining unaware of, or completely ignoring all the others is what that person does instead, and the willful violation is what angers me. In other words, the root of this problem lies with disrespect for other people, which then leads to either a “my needs first” attitude or “I don’t care what I do since I will never see them again” attitude.
The solution I suggest which is, inevitably, the only possible solution is that those who absolutely cannot wait until they arrive home to watch television simply start using earphones. This solution is neither hard nor impossible to accomplish, since those listening to music in the subway have no problem with using earphones. If anything, following the solution is very simple and will result in a win-win situation for everyone; Use the earphones, save yourself from the rambling racket of subways, and spare us from your television shows.