Turning in Litterbugs as a New Career?

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Turning in Litterbugs as a New Career?

A middle-aged man identified only as Lee spent the whole day Monday looking for people who throw away cigarette butts and garbage on the street in Jeonju. Lee lost his job with a construction company in Gwangju during the Asian financial crisis in 1997. He moved to Jeonju last year and launched a new business some might find innovative: reporting litterers to the police.

He reported a total of 120 cases of reckless garbage throwing last month. If the Jeonju city government accepts all these cases as worthy of reward, he will receive 4.8 million won ($4,000). This easily tops the average monthly salary in Korea.

An increasing number of people are taking up jobs akin to Lee's as their profession. The trend started when local governments announced that they would reward reporters of littering with 80 percent of the fine exacted from offenders.

Among the four people in Jeonju who are in the same business as Lee, three of them are from different cities. They say it's more difficult to catch people they know than it is to turn complete strangers in to the police.

They have equipped themselves with state-of-the-art video cameras. Their per capita cases reported per month numbers more than 100.

A man only identified as Choi says: "For drivers, I need only identify the number on the license plate and and the face of the driver but for pedestrians, I also need to see their identification." He also says that only about 20 percent of them acknowledge their wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, local governments are having a hard time maintaining enough revenue for rewards. In North Cholla Province, only 80 cases of littering were reported between March and June. However, more than 1,000 cases were reported between July and August, an amazing increase. In the city of Jeonju, the reported cases increased from 40 to 790, virtually eliminating the entire revenue set aside for rewards. For 400 of these cases, the city has not been able to award them money because the fines have not been collected.

Throwing away cigarettes and garbage on the street will cost you 40,000 won; not using the designated garbage bag, disposing of garbage by an illegal method or throwing away garbage at a public park will cost you 80,000 won; and illicit disposal of construction debris will leave you 800,000 won lighter of pocket. So beware.

by Seo Hyong-shik

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