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Sunday, May 30, 2004

(Small businesses) Highly educated doing street business

Chosun Ilbo has a story of former white collar employees and other university graduates who're now doing streetside businesses.
Seems that Chosun wants to make a point in having this on the main page. Cases like this brings to mind the "IMF era", when many people, highly educated included, had to take to the streets and subway trains.

• Mr Chông used to work in a big company. His distribution business with a partner failed and he was left with a huge debt. He worked in a small company for a while, but quit because of poor pay. Now he's selling vegetables from a truck in Yongsan, having sales of 500 000 W [330€] a day.
• Province university graduate Mr Kim couldn't get any company work, and now he and his girlfriend have decided to use their marriage fund of 30 mil W [20 000 €] for a movable business.
• Mr Yu, who sells mandu 1000 W apiece at a marketplace in Bucheon, Gyeonggi-do, worked in a venture company after finishing grad school, but the dot-com boom got to and end. His attempt at a fried chicken shop ended in a failure in 6 months. After that his haemult'ang dish delivery restaurant failed for using a wrong kind of a neighborhood, and the next he didn't succeed in was a fried chicken delivery place, which he gave up due to the bird fever.

Selling squid from a truck in Busan
Selling squid from a truck in Busan.
(c) AL 2001
A special truck manufacturer tells that more and more highly educated young people search for modified trucks for movable business instead of the mainly older and less affluent (pinmin and sômin / seomin) people of before. The article concludes by borrowing the words of a business opening consultant, that as the saving capability of many university graduates is weak during the present slow economy, the number of highly educated people seeking to have a street business is expected to grow.

Neighborhood women buying horse radish from a truck salesman. (c) AL 2001

For local residents, these roaming traders often provide good services comfortably, like bringing fresh produce during harvest seasons, but from the point of view of permanent shopkeepers they can be a huge annoyance and cause economic loss. Since these truck traders hardly play income tax as well as the shopkeepers, the competition is not even. But I also kind of appreciate that it is possible to make ends meet even with this kind of occupation.
In my own neighborhood in southern Seoul, I remember a situation when a vegetable and a fish shop keeper got mad at a truck trader who dared to venture to the same street. Nevertheless, people's view of the shopkeeper's behavior wasn't favorable, because he couldn' mind his manners and because the truck trader stayed far from the shop.

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