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∙ Current position: Academy of Finland Postdoctoral Researcher, Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Life of the irregulars

This detailed report on the situation of irregularly employed is Ohmynews at its best.
A mother in her 60s and an unmarried son of 40 taking care of a railway station kiosk, in which they also live, a space of 2 pyeong (6.6 sqm). They are formally self-employed (kaein saôpcha) with a contract with Han'guk Ch'ôldo Yut'ong ("Korean Railway Sales"), but their income is a fixed percentage of the sales, some 10%, which makes 700000-1000000 won (€540-770) a month. The kiosks used to be operated by paid employees, but in 2001 they were given to individual "entrepreneurs."
새벽 5시에 문을 열어 자정 무렵까지 일해 버는 수입치고는 턱없이 적다. 하지만 뾰족한 수가 없어 5년째 이 일을 하고 있다. 이씨는 이 일을 하면서 심장질환까지 얻어 쓰러진 적이 있다고 말했다. 숨막히게 좁은 공간과 쉴 새 없이 울리는 구내방송, 고막을 뒤흔드는 철도소음이 그의 건강을 갉아먹은 것이다.
두 모자가 먹고 자고 일하는 공간은 2평 규모의 철도매점. 노모의 잠자리 쪽에는 전기장판이, 아들이 눕는 곳에는 낡은 소형 TV가 놓여 있다. 노모의 잠자리 밑에는 물건과 함께 밥통과 간이찬장이 놓여 있다. 그야말로 꼼짝달싹할 수 없는 좁은 공간이다. 그나마 다행한 것은 두 모자의 체구가 작다는 것이다.

The second case is a janitor (or would "cleaner" be more precise?) in a university in Incheon. She makes 700 000W a month, less than half of what her regularly employed colleagues. (Not that it wouldn't be good if cleaners were paid well, but I wonder if regularly employed ones really earn that much, 1.8 mil W/month as stated in the text?)
서씨 가족의 월수입은 철공소에서 일하는 남편(44)이 받는 임금 100만원을 합쳐 170만원. 남편이 술·담배를 즐겨하기 때문에 생활비는 훨씬 줄어든다. 이 돈으로 두 아들(중3학년·고2학년)을 포함해 네 식구가 살아간다. 허리디스크로 3년 가량 쉬던 남편이 최근 일자리를 구하면서 겨우 숨통이 트였지만 그 동안 쌓인 빚 3천만원을 갚을 길이 까마득하다.
서씨는 "가난한 부모를 만난 아이들에게 너무 미안합니다. 잘해주고 싶어도 이 월급으로는 어떻게 할 도리가 없습니다"며 "월급이 인상돼 두 아들을 걱정 없이 가르쳤으면 좋겠습니다"라고 소망을 털어놨다.

(I'm reminded of one of the shopkeepers in my research neighborhood who had kept a vegetable shop with her husband for a long time. She tried her luck in a small punsik eatery with occasional help from her husband who drove a youghurt truck as well (delivering yoghurt for the yoghurt-selling women), but chose to seek employment as a janitor because of a bad business. But I understand she was able to become regularly employed with all the benefits, so in that sense it makes sense.)

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