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“My Wish is for My Grandson to Get a Job”

Posted February. 06, 2008 03:09,   

한국어

“My Wish is for My Grandson to Get a Job”

“I saw your picture on the front page of the newspaper.”

“Don’t cry, cheer up!”

Customers visiting a traditional market called “Wondang” in Bongcheon-dong, Seoul on Feb. 4, greeted 67-year-old Kim Seong-rim, who sells fish from a street vendor.

Pulling out a Dong-A Ilbo article from under her garment, she boasted, saying a regular customer gave it to her. The newspaper scrap showed her standing beside President-elect Lee Myung-bak who visited the market the other day.

Kim has been selling fish for three decades in the traditional market which is set along a narrow alley. Although she is one of the oldest sellers in the market, she has never been able to afford own her shop due to the large deposit and high monthly rent.

A bicycle cart and a small lot in the corner of a supermarket is where she makes her living. She has endured chilly winds and the cold for over 30 winters selling fish on the street.

In preparation of the Lunar New Year, several customers were buying fish from her vendor, yesterday. Due to poor economic conditions, they hesitated to purchase fish other than necessary items.

Born to a farmer in South Jeolla Province, Kim married her husband, who came from North Korea, at the age of 17.

“I began selling fish since my husband, who worked at construction sites, was unemployed during winter,” said Kim. “My husband died 15 years ago, and now the market is the only way I can survive.”

Every day for 15 years, she gets up at 4:30 a.m. to buy fish at the Noryangjin Seafood Market and sells fish until 11 p.m.

Worried that she might miss a customer while having dinner, she takes dinner after returning home late at night.

“In the winter, I go to the seafood market two to three times a week and buy fish worth 150,000 won. But it is hard to sell fish worth 50,000 won a day. During the summer, I have cried when I have had to throw away unsold fish that go bad,” she said.

That day, a pile of rotten mackerels were laid on the corner of her vendor cart.

Despite the hardships, she has managed to marry off her three sons and one daughter.

“Economic conditions should be better,” she said. “My biggest wish is for my grandchildren to get a good job.”

When thinking of her three sons who work as a street cleaner, a truck driver and a construction worker, she notes, “I don’t know how to read and couldn’t afford to educate them enough. I really want my grandchildren to study hard and get a better job.” She is proud that her grandchildren have gained acceptances into Gongju National University of Education and Kangnung National University.



gaea@donga.com