Who are they trying to save?

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Who are they trying to save?


If you arrive in Paris, hoping to see the bright blue autumn sky of Seoul, you will be disappointed. Rather than the sunny, bright sky, you get a grey and cloudy sky. You feel the chill and become rather gloomy. No wonder Charles Pierre Baudelaire cursed “Le Spleen de Paris.”

I was walking down Avenue Emil Zola when a young man suddenly appeared and blocked my way. He presented a note to me. It said he didn’t have a job and was hungry. He was asking for money to buy some bread. Also, it mentioned that he was not a Gypsy. There is no way of knowing whether the young man was or not. A baguette is about 1 euro ($1.38), and when I gave him the coin, he walked away.

In front of the Paris Ile-de-France government office located by the Seine River, over 100 Parisians have gathered under a tent that has been put up as temporary housing. They are tenants who have been removed from housing before the winter ban on eviction, which started on November 1.

The laws related to housing lease contracts in France are strictly in favor of the tenants. Once a contract is signed and a tenant moves in, it is very difficult to evict the tenant after months of nonpayment of the agreed fee. The landlord has to go through a very complicated process to obtain an eviction order from the court. Therefore it is hard for the tenants to get housing even when there are over 2 million vacancies around the country. It is an unfortunate outcome of the excessive protection for the tenant’s rights.

Even with an eviction order from the court, the landlord cannot remove the tenant in the four-and-half month period known as a winter ban, from November 1 to March 15 the following year.

Upon obtaining a court order, landlords make all possible efforts to make sure the nonpaying tenant is removed before the ban. Julianne, who was giving out pamphlets on the street with her daughter Ines, said that it was an inhumane action to evict the people without a relocation plan.

The Parisians seem more gloomy and frustrated than before. They seemed exhausted. After all, life is not so easy anywhere in the world. The leaders of the G-20 nations gathered in Cannes in southern France to discuss how to save the global economy. Who are they trying to save as they discuss the global economy? The unemployed and the evicted are asking the leaders.

The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Bae Myung-bok
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