Rest in peace, dear gosiwon angel

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Rest in peace, dear gosiwon angel

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Korea’s gosiwon — the low-cost, single-room accommodations created for students preparing for state examinations — are no longer occupied by students. In the past, these students dreamed of success from their tiny rooms, hoping to transform their old jerseys into judge’s robes. Now, the gosiwon offer cheap accommodations for day laborers, poor college students and office workers who cannot afford any other housing.

As the students disappeared from the gosiwon, citizens increasingly began to oppose the construction of new gosiwon, as they believed the facilities would be a negative influence in their neighborhoods. And there have been a number of incidents to feed their fear.

In July 2008, seven people died in a fire at a gosiwon in Yongin, Gyeonggi. Three months later in October, a man in his 30s set the gosiwon where he lived on fire and also murdered six people with a knife. Three of the victims were ethnic Koreans from China who had crossed the ocean to make their “Korean dreams” come true. In September 2010, a fire at a gosiwon in Sincheon- dong, eastern Seoul, killed 11 people.

Yet, gosiwon accommodate more than 100,000 people in Seoul, or nearly 1 percent of the population. All of these residents have two things in common: they do not have the money for any other form of accommodation and they have their own dreams.

The dream of one gosiwon resident recently came to an end. Now called the “angel deliveryman,” Kim U-su lived in a gosiwon in Nonhyeon- dong, southern Seoul, and died in a traffic accident while making a delivery. His funeral was Thursday.

Kim only made about 700,000 won ($590) a month delivering Chinese food, but still chose to support five children who were not his own. He is an organ donor and the beneficiary of his insurance policy, worth 40 million won, is a fund for children. He lived in a windowless room that was not big enough to allow him to stretch his body, but he still dreamt of a world where no child has to suffer the unfortunate life he had to endure.

Kim was born to a single mother and abandoned at an orphanage when he was seven. When he was 12, he left the facility and lived by begging on the street and doing manual labor. Based on his generosity, he must have lived thinking about children in similar situations. His dream outshines all worldly dreams for success. We pray for this angel to rest in peace.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


By Noh Jae-hyun
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