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Friday, November 12, 2004

bottom economy at bottom (Ohmynews story)

An interesting "on-the-spot" (hyônjang) report on the frozen "ordinary people's economy" in Ohmynews; cigaretters sold by piece and soju by glass - quite unheard of in Korea. (Considering that it was seen as a landmark that Korean restaurants got a right to sell soju by bottle in Virginia, USA; my earlier post)

The writer offers all kinds of examples of the bad state of economy from her own life and from going around in marketplaces - the site to go whenever something about the state of economy is needed.
- Seoul Subway tells that users have increased a few percent lately despite of the expectations of slight decrease; this is most likely due to more expensive gasoline.
- The good old coal briquet (yônt'an) are having a revival due to the increased price of oil, despite of the labor that coal briquet heating brings.
얼마 전 유가 상승으로 연탄보일러와 가게가 다시 활기를 띄고 있다는 보도를 많이 접한 적 있었다. 정말 그런지 성북구에 있는 D연탄가게를 찾았다.
주인 정오복씨는 "연탄보일러로 바꾸려면 하루에 세 번 불을 갈아줘야 하고 집안 바닥을 뜯어야 해서 비용도 만만치 않다"며 "하지만 기름값 때문에 가게나 사무실의 난로를 기름난로에서 연탄난로로 바꾸는 경우가 많아진 것은 사실"이라고 바쁜 와중에도 답해줬다.


"Suicide clearance" of a kitchenware shop in Guro market.
Prices are down, one bowl of k'alkuksu 990W in Myeongdong, haejangguk at Jongno 3-ga 1500W, Chuncheon chicken kalbi one person portion 2000W for students and 2500 for others and so on. Clothing stores and others are having sale upon sale. Someone has come up with the idea of putting up a "Suicide clearance" (chasal chôbun).

"The IMF" or the economic crisis of the late 1990s appears in the usual manner as the point of comparison about how severe the economy is: "it wasn't this difficult even during the IMF":
"사실, 제가 이 곳에서 일한지 10년이나 됐지만 IMF 때도 요즘처럼 경영이 어렵진 않았어요. 요즘은 세일을 하고 고객관리를 더욱 철저히 해도 워낙 상황이 어려우니 사람들이 옷을 안 사입어 운영상 걱정이 많아요."
The writer tells also that recycling and second hand shops are having a good business; this if anything reminds of the late 90s, when second-hand retailing had good times not only in the Hwanghak-dong market in Cheonggyecheon.

The writer has heard of a drinking place which sells soju for 500 won a bottle and 100 W a shot. That place, kept by a 25-year old woman, is in an underground arcade somewhere close to Hoegi station (Kyunghee uni) on the Uijeongbu line. My goodness, the drinking place preserves customers' soju bottles in the way nightclubs preserve customers' whiskey! Sure, her sales have increased twofold, but how long will the business go by selling a bottle of soju for 500W?

Someone in the comment section asks what a kaep'i tambae means; how come, even I understood that it's one cigarette, here meaning selling cigarettes by piece (even though there's no mention of it in the text). A reply tells that in '88 one cigarette was 50 won - sold by piece to students and others who were short of cash.


And finally a horror story from Chosun Ilbo of a man who was more afraid of the hospital bill than the pain, and stitched a wound in his forehead by himself in front of a mirror. Now he had seeked a poor people's clinic as the wound wouldn't heal.
“우리 집사람이 손등에 조그만 상처를 입고 갔을 때 8만원을 냈거든요. 내가 관절염 치료를 받으러 갔을 때는 침 한방에 물리치료만 조금 받고 12만원을 낸 적도 있어요. 그런데 어떻게 병원에 갑니까?” 상처가 아물길 기다렸지만 면사가 녹는 바람에 상처가 자꾸 터졌다. 이틀 동안 두 번이나 터진 부위를 다시 꿰맸는데도 고름만 줄줄 나오자 곽씨는 요셉의원을 찾았다.
Wonder if Chosun makes the conclusion that more taxes should be collected and medical care irrespective of personal or work-related insurances increased? But sure that's just another case to show what it's like for the poor in today's Korea.

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Comments to note "bottom economy at bottom (Ohmynews story)" (Comments to posts older than 14 days are moderated)

<Blogger chlgeorge> said on 13.11.04 : 

That poor man with the head wound. Ouch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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