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Voluntary Work for “Love Coal”

Posted December. 07, 2005 08:32,   


“Looking at briquettes, I don’t feel cold at all.”

Hong Yoon-yeol (81, Moollae-dong, Seoul) grinned, showing not many teeth.

On December 6 afternoon, over 10 people visited her single room, and each of them were carrying two to three briquettes.

Among them are staff members of the “Briquettes Sharing Movement for a Warm Korean Peninsula,” an incorporated body, officials at the Purme Foundation, officials at Friend Care, a rehabilitation center for the disabled, and three middle school students who do volunteer work at the Moollae-dong office.

They moved the briquettes to her house which is about 30 meters from a narrow street where the truck carrying them can barely come and go with difficulty. They broke a sweat while carrying the briquettes along the narrow alleys.

In order to make room for the briquettes, she moved her belongings placed in the narrow passage into her room of two or three pyeong in advance.

In the room there were pots and plates. Near the door of the room, corrugated cardboard boxes and piles of papers were stacked. She earns a living picking and selling papers.

At the age of 42, she was abandoned. She lost her five children either to accidents or diseases. She also lost her husband to a chronic disease. She has been alone for half of her life. She limps due to paralysis. She even needs help from neighbors to heat her room with briquettes.

Her room was bitterly cold. She said with a bitter smile, “Every day, I pray to God that I die during my sleep. I am happy that I can die in a warm room.”

These members of the aforementioned organizations and volunteer workers carried 300 briquettes offered by Dong-A Ilbo, Love Coal, and the Purme Foundation.

Kim Seong-soo, director of Purme Foundation and president of Sung Kong Hoe University who was carrying briquettes said, “I came here after officiating at a wedding and having a 35,000 won lunch. I feel sorry and bad as if I choked on the lunch at the thought that the amount of money would keep the underprivileged, like her, warm for a month.”

Hong felt sorry for the volunteer workers who were toiling at moving the briquettes. Out of nowhere, she brought a small cart to carry them herself.

Jae-Myoung Lee egija@donga.com