March 16, 2011

dollar store merchants...

Even though I do not drive in Korea, I am still vulnerable to the same visual pollution that most people experience on highways and motorways. The subway is home to many ads as you are figuratively and literally a captive audience.

The' visual pollution' on subway cars is pretty basic, and rarely extreme. Although, I have seen some cars completely decked out, for example I have ridden on a car with a zoo animal theme, and another promoting Thai Tourism. While sometimes visually pleasing, most of the adverts are lost on me because I don't read Hangul (the korean written language).

Because of my inability to read, makes it very easy to block out the ads. However, what is not easy to screen out is a man walking down the subway yelling. There is a very special breed of salesmen who make their living hocking goods on the subway. If you ride the subway in Seoul during daytime hours, you will probably have encountered these individuals. Their screams are used to promote various and often random products, basically what you find in a dollar store.

Cheap gloves, mini flashlights, and plunging remedies are among the products on display. The biggest reason I compare them to dollar stores is the price and relative quality of what is being sold. I've yet to see a product for more than a chun (dollar) and I feel that they resemble products I receive in my stocking on Christmas morning.

I've come to respect these people, despite their loud rants. I think that this group of people make a decent living off selling these oddball products for two reasons. First off, the minimum wage in Korea is around $4/h, and this obscenely low wage would be easy to achieve if you sell at least 4, let's say 5 items an hour (5 to cover the cost of the products, to earn $4 profit). Secondly, the average time between subway stops is around 2 minutes, and it's rare that I don't see at least one stocking stuffer sell. At this rate these Koreans would earn far beyond the minimum wage, and it may well could be a way of life for some Koreans. Although it wouldn't be an easy way to make a buck, I respect these Asian entrepreneurs.

annoying or not, these vocal billboards mostly ignore weiguks. They don't frequently get in our faces because we aren't their main clientele. I find them to be an entertaining, and reoccurring reality while traveling on the Seoul Metro.

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