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Do You Know The Big Issue?We are Working!, Not Begging!

   
 
   
 
Is that a magazine published by a religious organization? Why is that guy standing just putting a magazine in front of the subway station? Who is that guy? Some students voice these opinions when they see the guy wearing the red vest on weekdays in front of some subway station. Vendors are shouting, “Buy the Big Issue magazine to help the homeless to support themselves”. They are the homeless people selling the Big Issue magazines.

 
The Big Issue was launched in 1991 by Gordon Roddick and John Bird in response to the growing number of homeless people sleeping on the streets of London. The two set out to address the problem of homelessness by offering homeless people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income; to “help them to help themselves”.


This magazine is published all over the world, in 38 countries including England, The Republic of South Africa, Australia, and South Korea, etc. Many notable figures have donated their time and efforts to the magazine, including Barrack obama, David Beckham, Beyonce etc. and they participated as a cover model of the magazine. Joan K. Rowling also wrote to the magazine. These activities drew the attention of people from around the world.


In July 2010, The Big Issue was launched in Korea, and has been published since then. Every two weeks, a new issue comes out, and recently the 47th edition was published. All Big Issue vendors are just required to sign a Code of Conduct that clearly states the rules and regulations for selling the magazine. There are 10 codes of Conduct which involves vendors should sell the magazine at the designated sites, raise their head smiling, do not sell drunken. All vendors are issued a membership badge and red vest which they are required to wear at all times when selling the magazine.


By selling the magazine, vendors become of employment and could raise money. When one issue is published, they are provided 10 magazines for each. They went to designated sites and sell magazines. They earn 30,000 won for selling their quota of magazines (each is 3,000 won). Earning money became principal, and vendors are supplied with more magazines. Whenever they sell a magazine, out of the 3,000 won price, 1,600 won becomes profit for the vendors for one circulation. Therefore, these magazines are not about getting aid to the homeless, but helping them to support themselves.

The contents of this magazine are focused on social entertainment subjects. It is a pop culture magazine, not only containing healthy social-cultural and environment-friendly issues, but also dealing with travel, cooking and other lifestyle topics. Talent donators from diverse fields and volunteers help fill the contents in the magazines. So the contents are professionally written articles, not just gossip. Its specific sections are star story, star in issues, and news about fashion, movies, drama, a series on social enterprises, and an interview with the big issue vendor.


The big issue magazine company is always open to every homeless person. Sometimes, vendors stop selling for various reasons. However, whenever they come to the company again, they welcome re-comers and help to support them again. The big issue company provides the homeless with willingness to support themselves, informs society about the possibilities and potential of the homeless, and markets itself according to a new paradigm (social enterprise). The world changes at the moment you read. Why don’t you give your support to the homeless people, by paying 3,000 won.

 

   
 
  Sunny Yang(nick name) is selling The Big Issues near the subway station and trying to support himself.  
 


Interview with Sunny Yang (nickname) vendor working at Sungshin Woman’s University station

Q. What is your motivation to work for the Big Issue magazine company?
I was alcoholic and handicapped before entering the Big Issue Company. I cannot work sitting for long periods of time because of weak physical strength and feeling of confinement. When the big Issue published its 2nd edition, I started to work here. I couldn’t remember how I learned about the Big Issue for the first time; it was good luck to get involved with the Big Issue magazine. I sometimes stopped working with them because of my alcoholism but the Big Issue always welcomed me back.

Q. Why did you make “Sunny Yang” as your nick name?

My last name is Yang, so I attached, and Sunny means warm, bright and delightful things like sun. I tried to be cheerful and positive person by being called as “Sunny Yang”. Now, I prefer to be called as my nickname to my real name.
 
Q. How do you feel about the buyers?

I thank almost all of the buyers. Also, I thank the people who sometimes send messages, who say hellos to me passing the way, or buying magazines and talking to me “Cheer up!”  This interest from people is the driving force for me to work here.

Q. Who was the most impressive buyer to you since you sell the magazine?

There are two stories that stand out for me. One is when I had a hard time during an extremely cold period of winter. I received a hot pack and hot soybean milk from buyers. At that time, I was really glad of careful concern about me. The other time was when I met a person who bought 5 magazines at once. I asked why you bought these much. She said “I would give these to my acquaintances and introduce it.” At that time, I was really thankful to her.    
 
 Q. To you, what does the big issue magazines mean? What are your feelings about The Big Issue magazine?

I think that it is last chance or hope to me. Working here, I could keep my appearance and I could greet the people I had lost in my life. Before entering here, I experienced the breakdown of my family, a separation from family and acquaintances. But now, investing money and time, I could recover these relationships. The big issue gives energy for me to talk with other people positively, power to change myself to be a productive person. Above all, I can be the real myself not resenting the old days and drinking every day.

Q. Are there any words that you want to say to Dongguk Students?

This magazine is made to save somebody’s life, just by buying one copy. On the street, there are many people that cannot pay to eat meals. By lying at the station, the homeless are escaping the reality because they cannot return to being ordinary people. Buying one issue is very less worth to some people, but many vendors like me feel more than that. Customers buying this are very valuable to me and driving force for me to live. Do not look me as a weird person, please look at me as a lively, hardworking person.   

Park Su-jeong  happy2uy@dongguk.edu

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