1st of May, Labor Day.
Getting to work in the morning is a touching experience.
On this particular day, I saw the road, which we took to work every day in a new light.
Looking at the people traveling to work through City Hall, I have often wondered to myself: ‘which of these people are going to make the switch to permanent positions today?’
Two months has gone by.
I was curious about the lives of those 1,133 people, employed by Seoul City and affiliated organizations, which made the switch from temporary to permanent employment.
I wonder about them… are they content? Is there nothing that troubles them?
I heard from Mr. Hwang Sun-bong, one of the head members who work at the Seobu Parks & Landscape Management Office.
Teacher Hwang is sixty this year, and will reach the retirement age this December.
(That means there are only 6 months left until he retires).
Mr. Hwang says that he first set foot into society aged 14 as a ‘Yoggo’.
‘Yoggo’ is a Japanese word meaning ‘a knitting engineer’, a role essential to the textile industry, which was at the forefront of our economy in the 1970s and 1980s.
Due to difficult circumstances at home, young Hwang Sun-bong was unable to graduate from middle school and worked on a sewing machine bigger than him, often eating rarely.
Working night shifts until two or three o’clock, the tip of his nose stung… and there were also many days where he had nosebleeds.
Nevertheless, he managed to endure these difficult times by keeping in mind the words of his elders: ‘if you have one technical skill, then you’ll never starve’.
Mr. Hwang Sun-bong hadn’t had much education and had no possessions. The only thing that he had to believe in was his technical skill. Even though he was in pain with blisters on his hands and bent at the waist, the ‘dul dul dul’ noise of the sewing machine going round and round comforted him. It was a time where knitting one piece converted to food, money, and following your dreams…
However, the dream was one of which he couldn’t go far.
Although saving money for ten years meant you could afford to set up a small knitting factory, the textile industry which was once believed to be a steady occupation was declining. Workers became day laborers due to bankruptcy and the loss of temporary assets. They went daily job seeking at dawn, and if there was no work to be done, they ended up playing with a ball. There were no job openings especially during summer and winter.
Hmm… Going to work every day to make enough money to survive.
Mr. Hwang Sun-bong acquired a temporary position in Seoul. It was a job working at Seobu Park, trimming the grass, planting flowers, and other landscaping duties. Just seeing someone smiling with delight looking at a tree or flower he had cultivated was the same as becoming wealthy in Mr. Hwang’s mind.
However, his discomfort at the fact that he could be dismissed from his job at any time was like a weed in his flowerbed.
‘If I lost my job, then what about my ninety-year-old mother…’‘
He always felt feeling in the pit of his stomach while living by himself to support his elderly mother.
But within just 5 years, he had become a permanent public official at Seobu Park.
Upon hearing that he was to receive permanent employment for the first time in his life and become a public official, something he’d never even dreamed of, his eyes were filled with tears of joy.
Getting his first permanent employment in 60 years – even if he will soon reach the age of retirement, the small raise in salary and bonus will go towards the rent for the room he shares with his ninety-year-old mother.
Although it has only been 7 months, it’s the first permanent employment in Mr. Hwang Sun-bong’s life and he says it’s great.
And I’m sorry that it came so late.