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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Chosun editorial on small businesses

Chosun Ilbo had a few days ago an editorial on the difficulties of small businesses (in Korean; in English) in the present-day Korea. The literal English translation of the original title of the editorial would be "restaurants closing, hairdressing shops taking down signboards" (문 닫는 식당, 간판 내리는 미용실), but no doubt a direct translation wouldn't have conveyed the connotations of the Korean phrase, so a title reflecting more the contents of the text was chosen, "Mom-and-Pop Businesses Need Help, Too".

As a non-native speaker of English it's a good experience to see what English term is used to represent the small businesses that the editorial talks about. My relation to English tends to be technical, without so much feeling for the nuances or knowledge from practical use of everyday terminology. So that's why I'm much more familiar with the use of kumôngkage (gumeonggage) as a term of a kind of small businesses than with the English "mom-and-pop store". Well, at least I understand they are quite close in meaning and use.

The editorial comments the plight of small business keepers, among whom as much as 44% fail to earn the government-set minimum standard income for a four-person family. (This has also been widely discussed in a Donga Ilbo article series, of which I have earlier notes one, two and three). And there was also a Hankyoreh21 article, which questioned the view that there's an oversupply of self-employment in Korea, and of which my note is here.

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