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[Opinion] Sales on Credit

Posted May. 17, 2005 23:11,   


There is an old Korean saying that a person from a certain area can go 30 miles even after stripping naked. It was originated from a story in which an owner of a store came across a person who skipped the bill 10 years ago and finally got the money back after chasing him for 30 miles without any clothes on. Another old saying goes that you would even buy a cow if you are allowed to buy on credit. In agricultural society, buying on credit and then paying off the bill after harvest was more common than cash transactions. Now we have credit cards, a modern medium of buying on credit. It is a common story that somebody who bought a cow with a credit card became a credit delinquent.

Transactions on credit are not completely gone. These days, small kids learn to buy on credit in a stationery shop in front of the primary school. The shop can secure customers by selling on credit, while kids without enough money can prepare school supplies by buying on credit. Most neighborhood shops sell on credit to familiar customers anytime unless their outstanding balance goes beyond a certain point. Some storeowners are even afraid of losing customers when they fully pay off the bill.

It is sometimes said that the first phone call a company receives after going bankrupt is made from a bar, urging it to pay the bill as soon as possible. There was a time when owners of bars and restaurants would watch outside of the nearby company on paydays to see those who skipped the bill. In last October, there was a fight in a red light district between women’s rights activists and merchants in the area. The merchants stopped a truck carrying baggage of prostitutes who were moving out in order to collect the bill from them. But they consider public servants as the most reliable customers to sell on credit.

Recently, Mr. Heo posted an article on the website of a government department to urge public officials to pay the bill. As he runs a shop in front of the Gwacheon Government Complex, he said he suffered extensively because of the large amount of unpaid bills that the officials failed to foot. Indeed, it is said that major restaurants near the complex have huge unpaid bills. In the past, some people paid the bill of government officials. But such practices are increasingly disappearing as society is becoming more transparent. Still, he seems to go too far when he wrote an article only to collect the unpaid bills.

Lim Gyu-jin, Editorial Writer, mhjh22@donga.com