Lighting up Lotte, she has bright ideas

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Lighting up Lotte, she has bright ideas


She spends the year’s end in a fantasy land, and she has done it for nine years. She believes that when people’s hearts get cold and their dreams vanish, they need splendor and delight. In the cold of winter, she wants to provide warmth to pedestrians battered by freezing winds.
She gets a paycheck for that, of course.
Hwang Ju-mi, a 32-year-old designer at Lotte Department Store, is responsible for the Christmas lighting decorations for the store in Sogong-dong, central Seoul.
The preparation to install the decorations starts in summer. The basic concepts for the decorations are set and the drafts are completed in late October before the month-long installation begins. The work begins at night, after the department store shuts down, and continues until employees arrive the next morning. It takes 10 store employees, 2 million light bulbs, 132 kilometers (82 miles) of wire and 100 contract workers to do the job, which costs 600 million won ($571,428).
The main colors this year are green, gold and purple. The lights were switched on last month.
Asked whether the lights are too flashy at a time when many people are dealing with hardship, Ms. Hwang replied, “When life gets hard, our heart gets cold. Please view it as an attempt to breathe hope and warmth into citizens’ lives.”
Ms. Hwang said when she sees cheerful children and strolling couples enjoying the Christmas decorations, she feels it was worth the work.
She treats the decorations as if they were her children, constantly monitoring and fussing over them until their removal. When it rains or snows, she worries about short circuits, and when it’s windy, she has to prevent them from falling. The month of late-night work isn’t easy ― after it’s over, she has trouble readjusting her schedule to the daytime.
“I feel moved when people watch the decorations with a beaming look on their face, as if they are in a fantasy land,” she said, adding that having worked downtown at night on the decorations for nine years, she realized that many homeless people live in Seoul.
Ms. Hwang studied arts and crafts in college and held a temporary job decorating a Christmas tree in Lotte World theme park, which led her to joining Lotte in 1997.

by Yum Tae-jung
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