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16 May 2004
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Korea Life Blog - The Recycling Haraboji

There's a little old man in town who year round, night after night, into the early morning, goes around town collecting recyclables: cardboard, plastics, glass, metal, etc.

He looks to be in his seventies. I don't know how he does it. I used to see him out there in the middle of the winter when it was freezing cold and windy, tugging his heavy cart. One night I stopped him and gave him a few thousand won. He seemed so taken back and surprised, not so much by the money it seemed to me, but rather by the fact somebody stopped to talk to him.

Now and again I see him around and I always bow and greet him with the formal, Anyong hashimnika, and he smiles brightly and waves to me. You would expect him to be a grouchy old man bitter about his fate but he acts so kind and nice.

He used to pile his take in the lot behind the hagwon. Then whoever owned the land kicked him out. Next he started to pile the goods on the land behind my apartment. Then they kicked him out too.

The old guy now piles everything up in the small area here, on the little side road that runs next to my building. Look at how hard he's been working.There are a couple good things about this, I guess. He's getting a lot of exercise and he's doing a great job keeping all this from being put in a landfill.

It's definitely an eyesore, but it all gets picked up about once a month. I'm guessing he gets less than 100,000 won for his efforts. It's hard to believe a short, frail 70 year old man collected all this. To help him out, I separate my trash and give the reusables to him.

Nearby, where he used to put things, after kicking the poor old guy out they put up this friendly barbed wire fence.

They also put up this thoughtful reminder that says if you put your trash again here we're going to sue you. Is that really necessary? I think just asking the guy to move his recyclables would have been sufficient. Barbed wire? Threatening to sue? That's a little too much considering who they were dealing with. Old age leaves a lot to be desired in Nowhere-dong.

Don't forget to check The Windy Times for an update.


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