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Monday, August 30, 2004

t'ongjangnim

Some shopkeepers neighborhood who were amused at my habit of going from shop to shop making questions and finding out about things sometimes called me jokingly t'ongjang (統長), "ward chief". "Why t'ongajang" I asked. "Because you go around like one."

Formally, a t'ong (or tong in the newest system) is the next admistrative level below tong (or dong 洞), with a designated head like mentioned above, but in practice there's not much administering to be done, at least in small housing neighborhoods, with small independent housing units. (In apartments it's different, with housing administration matching with the local administrative units.)

Earlier for example a t'ongjang's stamp was needed when moving out and moving in, but nowadays there's not much administering to do except some errand running for the upper levels - at least in the neighborhood with which I'm familiar with. I also heard talk that earlier the t'ongjangs also were used as government runners during elections, trying to make sure that elections go the right way. "But now it has improved a lot." Actually it was only on a later visit when I learned who the t'ongjang was in the area where I spent the most time (see the 2nd pic from left in the header).

In a Seoul Sinmun article (via Media Daum) it is noted, somewhat contrary to my own experience, that the t'ongjangs are burdened with tasks compared to the meager monetary reward they get so that they become voluntary workers in practice. The reward differs from ku to ku, so that in some places it's wholly on a voluntary chawônbongsa basis. Some few who deliver local tax notices are paid for that and get also school allowance for their children, but in general it's 200 000 won [€130] a month and 20-40 000 W for official meetings.
서울 은평구의 한 통장은 “월 22만원을 수당으로 받고 있지만 마을청소,불우이웃돕기,적십자회비 징수 독려 같은 봉사활동이 이루 말할 수 없이 많아 사비마저 쓰고 있다.”면서 “대부분의 통장들은 봉사한다는 자부심에 시간을 쪼개 힘겨운 일을 도맡아 하고 있다는 사실을 알아주길 바란다.”고 말했다.

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