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Monday,August 26,2019
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The Meaning of One Man's Death
A street vender, Park Bong-kyu, attempted to burn himself to death in Junggu Office, Seoul Metropolitan City, on Aug. 23. It shocked us and publicized the vender's pain. On Aug. 21 and 23, the late Mr. Park was deprived of his tools on Chunggyechun street, because selling in the street market is illegal. He was angry about the policy of the Junggu Office and decided to protest against Seoul City mayor Lee Myung-bag. There was a trace of the protestation in his burnt cloths.
During the 1988 Seoul Olympics and 2002 World Cup, the government ordered street venders to remove their goods from street markets. Although many venders lost their livelihoods at that time, the government never supplied any alternative scheme. Venders suffered a great deal by the government's indifference, especially when Seoul City Office started to pull down street market in order to restore Chunggyechun street. The late Mr. Park was a victim of this action.
The staff of the Ward Office employed some hoodlums to knock down the street market. And they did violence to the venders and even sexually harassed some female venders. Choe An-gi, the head official of the National Vender Association, said, "If the venders resisted the destruction, then the hoodlums would hit and kick them. We demand that the Ward Office stop the hoodlums and handle this matter in a civil way."
The late Mr. Park was the father of one son and four daughters. He earned only 600,000 won per month. Most street venders are poor and undergo economic hardship. And they are scared that they will lose a means of making a living due to the policy of the Ward Office. All of the venders stood together to demonstrate against the Ward Office.
Choe Dong-yun, the director of the commission restoring Chunggyechun, said "We didn't punish the venders unless they broke the roles. That is, we chose a fixed place where they could sell their goods by drawing a blue line. If they sold beyond the blue line, we punished them by taking their goods. Selling in the street market is also an obstruction to traffic and harms storekeeper's business." The Ward Office adheres to this policy.
Venders and the Ward Office have fought against each other for a long time. Citizens who have been closely following this conflict offer various opinions. Park Hee-jung, a daughter of the last Mr. Park, is posting her thoughts about her father's death on the Internet. After reading them, many people expressed their opinions. Lee Jung-yal, a netizen, insisted, "It was a mistake that only one side was the target of criticism." Many civil groups, including the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions and the National Vender Association demonstrate against the Junggu Office. The government must offer a systemic plan and protect venders according to the law.
 We have seen the pain of venders for a long time, and we have urged the government to take care of the venders over and over again. All people born have a right to fair livelihood. We hope to see a fair settlement between venders and the Ward Office.

Park Min-hee  pmhsmile@dongguk.edu

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