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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

"Survival 2004"

"Existence" or just "being" are also possible glosses for the word saengjon that Chosun Ilbo uses for the topic in its series of people struggling to make a living, but in this case "survival" catches best the meaning that the newspaper is trying to convey. "2004" in the title means of course that 2004 has been an especially bad year.

First case is a 36-year old man who sells oranges from a small truck. The technical high school graduate migrated to Seoul after school, and held diverse but respectable jobs before starting a business with an excavator machine right before the economic crisis hit in '97. He managed to clear his debts but lost everything (not his family though), but was driven into odd jobs to scrape together some kind of living. He begun trading from a truck in 2000, first going around baking and selling pizza, and now oranges. For some time before competition became severe his income was fairly good, but at the moment it's become quite bad. All the credit card debts (!) have piled up to make him a credit defaulter (신용불량자), and shopkeepers won't let him stay long disturbing their own business. (That was often the case also in the neighborhood where I dod research.) His wife works at home making cellphone accessories. [There'd surely be better-paying respectable jobs available, but it's surely the family circumstances with two small kids that keep her at home - or the husband's insistence. Can't tell, it's not mentioned in the article.]

The second case is a woman from the Jagalchi Market in Busan. She is introduced as "Jagalchi ajimae" (=ajumma); it's a same term with which a woman apparently from the same marketplace became famous after giving a support speech for Roh Moo-hyun in television during the presidential campaign.
Click here to see the support speech (wmv file)
I'm just wondering if Chosun has deliberately chosen another Jagalchi ajimae to illustrate the difficulty of life under the Roh government... Mrs Chu's economic downturn (or the downturn of the whole Jagalchi market) started way before the present administration; the urban structure of Busan changed from the vicinity of Jagalchi market, and dept stores and discount stores have appeared. And the Jagalchi women, who have been the epitome of Korean women's "life capacity" by not complaining of small things, are losing their energy:
그래서인지 억척스런 아지매들의 터전인 자갈치시장에 예전에 없던 일들이 벌어지고 있다. “아프다”며 가게를 닫더니 아예 나오지 않는 아지매들이 늘어난 것이다. “다른 곳은 몰라도 자갈치 아지매들만큼은 아무리 어려운 상황이 와도 억척스레 ‘괜찮다 괜찮다’ 하면서 넘겼는데, 올해만큼은 그게 안 되네요”라고 연방 기침을 하며 주씨가 말했다.
But as is appropriate in a story on such a woman, as bad as the economy is supposed to be, she is not going to give up: “아무리 어렵다 해도 포기하면 안 되지요. 죽일라 캐도 살겠다 우기면 사는 게 사람이잖아요. 우리는 할 수 있습니다.”

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