They may be turning silver, but they can still make silverWhoever said that growing old means slowing down never met Kim Gi-hong, of Chungnim-dong in central Seoul.
Two decades ago. he was forced into retirement from his job at an electronics company. Now 81, Mr. Kim is back in the swing of things, working as an express deliveryman.
Too difficult a task for someone his age? Mr. Kim shakes his head. "I'm still young!" he exclaims.
Mr. Kim is not the only senior returning to the workforce. At Silverquick, where Mr. Kim also works, 47 people in their 60s, 70s and 80s work as express delivery people.
"As long as someone's alive," Mr. Kim says, "he can and should work. Just hanging out all the time at home and doing nothing because you're old doesn't make any sense."
Silverquick opened March 6 and is run by the welfare association The Love Call. It is designed to provide work opportunities for older people.
Song Soo-yeong, 27, a employee of The Love Call, said "During February we promoted this program in Chongmyo Park, a place well-known for having many senior citizens who hang out there. We were very surprised to find that so many old people still want to have jobs and work."
But don't expect Silverquick's employees to race around wildly on motorcycles and scooters like most of Seoul's deliverymen do.
The subway is the usual means they use to deliver their flowers, documents and product samples. Besides, for anyone over 65, public transportation is free.
Cho Jong-seok, 70, a resident of Itaewon, proudly says that Silverquick is a faster and safer means of delivering small but urgent goods than other quick service companies, and since Silverquick's troops don't use motorcycles, there is no danger of having the delivery smashed in an accident.
The company started off slowly, but little by little they have built up their clientele, based on a strong word of mouth.
People are impressed by the older deliverymen, and consider them sincere and accurate. Whereas in the beginning, Silverquick might have gotten only 3 or 4 orders a day, now the firm averages nearly 60.
Pak Seong-rye, 47, who runs a flower shop in Gongdeok-dong, says, "They deliver anything anywhere, no matter how far it is, even to places where young people are reluctant to go."
The Silverquick workers come from a wide array of backgrounds ?teachers, civil servants, businessmen, cleaners.
The youngest worker is Choi Myeong-su, 63, a former middle school English teacher in Seoul. Some people might look down on this kind of work, but Ms. Choi is glad to have it and never tires of going to work.
"This job is tough but enjoyable," she says. "And all occupations are equally honorable."
Silverquick is open every day from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., and deliveries cost between 7,000 and 10,000 won ($5.30 and $7.50).
Until the end of April, they are offering a special promotion ?5,000 won for deliveries within Seoul.
Any profits left over after salaries and other expenses are taken care of are reinvested into the neighborhood, going to good causes such as young families and senior activity centers.
The chairman of The Love Call, Shim Cheol-ho, says that the delivery company's work is filling an important need.
"In a society that privileges older people," he says, "those seniors should have the right to work. From now on, I will work towards increasing programs that target the elderly."
by Kim Sun-ha