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Young-Gil Park, selling The Big Issue Korea in Seoul

“As a result of selling The Big Issue, I have been able to turn my life around”

This week’s vendor is Young-Gil Park, who sells The Big Issue Korea in central Seoul. The Big Issue Korea was established in 2010. Vendors buy the magazine for 2,500 won and sell for 5,000. As of this year, 68 vendors have found housing, and 25 have found re-employment through The Big Issue Korea.

I happen to sell magazines in three separate locations in Sinchon, which is an area in central Seoul that is home to some of South Korea’s prestigious universities, such as Yonsei, Sogang and Ewha Womans University. It is a popular attraction for students and has a lot of restaurants, bars, and places for shopping.

During the 1997-98 Korean International Monetary Crisis, many Koreans lost their jobs and ended up on the streets

During the school year, I sell in front of Sogang University. During the holidays, I can be found in front of Sinchon Station, Exit 5. On Saturdays, I am still in Sinchon, but this time in front of a movie theatre.

This has been my regular routine ever since I became a distributor of The Big Issue back in 2011. Even before the Korean International Monetary Crisis of 1997-98, I never missed a day of work for 27 years. During that crisis, many Koreans lost their jobs and, as a result, ended up on the streets. I have a very strong sense of integrity.

I am thankful for many people in my life, such as the man who originally introduced me to The Big Issue, students who continue to support me by purchasing and reading magazines, and the small toddler who comes holding his mother’s hand to buy a copy of the magazine. As a result, I have been able to turn my life around. I am no longer homeless and have a new direction for my life.

Eventually I hope to open a Kimbap store [Korean-style sushi]. I have already decided on a name, ‘Mr Park’s Kimbap’. By next year I would like to leave my current living arrangement and move into public housing. As long as I have the energy, I would like to remain a vendor of The Big Issue.

Written by Won Kim and translated from Korean by Derek Kunhee Kim and JiEun Jung. Courtesy of The Big Issue Korea /INSP.ngo

Sinchon, Seoul, South Korea

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