Go to contents

In the Dark Shadows of Recession, the Whole Family Worries about Living - 1

In the Dark Shadows of Recession, the Whole Family Worries about Living - 1

Posted November. 04, 2004 23:08,   


With the protracted recession, low-teens (teenagers in their early-mid teens) including elementary school students are launching into part-time jobs, and housewives in their 40s are entering the work force. Experts unanimously said, “We cannot say that a ‘working society’ is wrong, but in the course of finding jobs due to hard living without a definite plan, many are victimized due to poor structure. Institutional improvements and management are needed for these people.”

November 1, 2004, around the “D” apartments in Bongcheon-dong, Gwanak-gu, Seoul:

Young children can be easily seen handing out leaflets in this area where many elementary and middle school children gather because the area is centered on educational academies with many computer rooms and restaurants surrounding it. Most of these children are in grades four to six and are working part-time jobs to earn pocket money from difficult family circumstances.

Kim (age 12) said he has done just about everything for a part-time job, from Chinese food delivery to street stalling. Kim added, “My parents are day laborers, and the earnings have not been good lately, so I am working to earn my own pocket money.”

Elementary school students prefer the Shillim-dong and Boncheon-dong area in Gwanak-gu and the area around Nowon Station in Nowon-gu, where part-time jobs for handing out leaflets, with a pay of one won per leaflet handed out, can be easily found. Lee (age 12, 5th grader), who was at the Nowon Station area, said, “Out of the 32 students in our class, over 10 students are passing out leaflets. Some are doing the job just for fun, but most of them are working to make their pocket money.”

There are many elementary school students working part-time jobs at restaurants in the Shillim-dong food court area. Girls washing dishes in the kitchen all said they were in ninth grade, seeming to have arranged their answers beforehand with their employer. However, when asking their school and age, most of them were hesitant and did not answer.

Part-time jobs for elementary school students have been posted for a long time on the internet.

According to the current labor law, it is illegal to employ minors under the age of 15. However, as the number of minors working to earn pocket money has increased, employers employing them and not paying their wages are also increasing. Many complaints by the children working under these immoral employers are continuously coming up on the internet.

An official in the equal employment policy division of the Ministry of Labor spoke out, saying, “Employing minors under the age of 15 itself is illegal, and so employers do not even mark them down in their account books, making it difficult for crackdowns.”

Yang-Hwan Jung Jae-Dong Yu ray@donga.com jarrett@donga.com