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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Plight of the ordinary people, discount stores and a new kind of a vending machine

Chosun Ilbo has sent "housewife reporters" to find out about the bad shape of the "ordinary people's" economy. And it's difficult according to the people who are given voice. The usual pattern of talk is "before - now"; how it used to be better than now even during the "IMF crisis"
임씨는 “교육열 높은 한국 엄마들이 사교육비를 줄이기 시작했다는 건 정말 막판까지 왔다는 증거”라고 말했다. (It really looks like the end of everything when Korean mothers obsessed with education have begun to cut private education expenses.)
식당에서 일한다는 한 40대 중반 여성은 “하루 종일 몸이 부서져라 일하지만 손에 남는 게 없다”면서 “IMF 때만 해도 이렇게 힘들진 않았는데…”라고 말끝을 흐렸다. 남편이 도박을 하다 카드빚만 불려 놓은 채 가출해 버리는 바람에 온갖 허드렛일을 다 하면서 생활하고 있다고 한다. (A woman who does odd restaurant jobs after her husband left home because of credit card debts due to gambling, says it's worse than during "the IMF".



Foreign discount stores are coming into Korea in increasing numbers (Chosun Ilbo). Homeplus, owned by Samsung-Tesco will open 10 "supersupermarkets" (SSM). These are somewhere between the discount stores and supermarkets in scale, between 300 and 1000 p'yông (pyeong) (1000-3000 sqm), and prospects of this kind of shops supposed to be good.
(Supersupermarket; the way the meaning of "supermarket" has been inflated in Korea, I guess they had to come up with a new term.)
We also may think that not all of the difficulties of small shops and marketplaces is due to the bad overall economy. It wasn't after all any economic downturn that's taken away downtown corner shop (mom-and-pop stores) here.



"Business item briefing" in Chosun.
There's for example a "well-being business opening seminar" (웰빙창업 세미나) and a "restaurant prospect seminar" (유망 외식창업 전략 세미나).

The last one is interesting, and shows some of the Korean ingenuity: a coffee and lottery ticket vending machine. I guess the system is that the owner of the machine rents a space for the machine from someone or has the machine in one's own space. Call (02)3452-5552.

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