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[Opinion] Pay Packets

Posted January. 25, 2005 22:52,   


Mao Zedong claimed that power stems from the muzzle of a gun, but the power of Korean husbands comes from their pay packets. Even until the 1980s, payday was not like any ordinary day for breadwinner husbands, since it was one of those rare days when husbands could be “bossy” at home as much as they wanted. On this rare day, nagging wives prepared a good dinner for them and were anxious for their husbands to return home safely. There were, however, some plucky husbands who forgot their wives waiting at home and spent the whole night drinking or gambling, and then came home at dawn with empty pay packets.

From the perspective of husbands, those were the good old days. Though their pay envelopes were not very fat due to several taxes, coming home with a paycheck was a happy moment. Some husbands who got caught up in the worry of being pick-pocketed took a cab home instead of taking a bus filled with people. Some wives dressed in han-bok, the traditional Korean costume, and made a deep bow to greet their husband as a way of expressing their appreciation. Usually, some “ordinary wives” had no idea about year-end tax adjustments or leave bonuses, so it was often the case that these ordinary wives heard about undelivered bonuses from a talkative friend of their husbands at an year-end party, and got into a big fight with their husbands.

As payday came, accounting clerks had to spend several days calculating every payment, including coins, and put them in pay packets. In the afternoon of payday, pub and diner owners rushed to their customers to collect a bill, and those customers became busy playing a “hide and seek” game with them. All these familiar scenes were not that long ago at all. However, now that monthly payments are paid through automatic transfer, those scenes are not easy to meet any longer. The status of Korean husbands who have been pressured by their wives and children, crumbled with the end of the pay packet. Isn’t this a “conspiracy” of women?

The Peace Broadcasting System (PBC), a catholic broadcasting company in Korea, replaced its payment system and on January 25, its employees began receiving their pay in cash. Father Oh Jee-young, who chaired the company, said that he wanted to give families a chance to think about the hardship of their fathers, to appreciate it, and to encourage the withering status of fathers as well. Father Oh’s decision is very meaningful and highly appreciable, given that he is not in a position to fully understand the mind of breadwinner husbands.

Oh Myong-chul, Editorial writer, oscar@donga.com