중앙데일리

Downtown vendor takes city's pulse

Dec 31,2002
For Lim Hee-cheol, 25, a street vendor who sells sandwiches at the Gwanghwamun intersection in central Seoul, 2002 was a special year. He has felt the energy of Koreans, he says, through the street cheering of the World Cup soccer matches in June and the recent candlelight protests for two schoolgirls killed accidently last summer when they were hit by a U.S. military vehicle.

"When I watched the street cheering during the World Cup games," Mr. Lim said, "I thought there is nothing in the world Koreans cannot do. Of course, I was also happy that my business was prosperous."

Mr. Lim said that he also joined the cheering. When the Korean national soccer team beat Italy he gave out free sandwiches and gimbap, or rice rolled with seaweed.

Mr. Lim works from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. during the week. He works until late at night on the weekends, which is why he has seen the recent candlelight demonstrations on Saturday nights.

"I wanted to join the protests, too," Mr. Lim said. "But I couldn't because I had to work. Instead, I lit two candles at my sandwich truck to cherish the memory of the two girls. I also explain to my customers what the candles were there for."

Mr. Lim said he enjoys talking to customers. "I can learn what is going on when I talk to my customers," he said. "I once discussed the protests with an American Buddhist monk."

While he supports the spirit of the protests, Mr. Lim said he was hurt to see the demonstrators clashing with the police.

For Mr. Lim, the streets around Gwanghwamun are not just a place where he earns his living. "At first I just thought Gwanghwamun is one of the best places in Seoul for a street vendor like me because a lot of people pass by. But now I think that it is a place where citizens voice their opinions. It is an exuberant place."

Mr. Lim said he hopes to see Gwanghwamun remain a place where public opinion is freely expressed.

by Yoon Hyae-sin




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