중앙데일리

Top vendors making a fortune on Seoul streets

Feb 27,2007
People buying cigarettes at a makeshift snack booth on a street in Songpa, southeastern Seoul, may feel pity for a 59-year-old vendor, spending all day selling snacks, drinks, and lottery tickets from a 3-square-meter booth. They do not know that the vendor owns two houses estimated to be worth 700 and 400 million won respectively ($745,710 and $426,120).
According to a recent survey by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, 47 percent of street vendors said they own a house and 4 percent said they have two houses. Twenty-eight vendors said they own real estate priced over 600 million won and among them, seven own assets priced over 1 billion won. About 43 percent, however, said they do not own a house. And 84 percent said they have assets less than 200 million won. The survey covered 3,625 street snack booths and shoe-shine booths, the city said. According to the city, 389 vendors refused to disclose their assets, which are assumed to be sizable sums.
“They pay between 140,000 to 518,000 won per year for occupying space on the street. Some vendors on the streets where many people pass earn more than 10 million won per month,” said Kim Hyeong-ryeol, an official at the city government’s construction department.
The city government legitimized the operation of booths by illegal street vendors between 1980 and 1990 in an attempt to clear the streets. According to the survey, 645 booths are run by the disabled; 23 vendors are beneficiaries of government subsidies for households earning less than the minimum income, and 645 are people who have either contributed to the country, such as veterans, or their descendants.
According to city ordinances, the city government will decide whether to renew the vendors’ right to run the booths at the end of this year.
“Despite expected complaints from vendors, it is possible not to renew the rights of vendors who have assets over a certain amount,” said Mr. Kim. “We would revise ordinances to give operating rights to beneficiaries of government subsidies for low-income households, to the disabled or to people who have contributed to the country.”


By Sung Si-yoon JoongAng Ilbo [soejung@joongang.co.kr]



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