News

Beyond Gangnam’s Style

UPDATE: A portion of this blog was updated to reflect corrected translations regarding statements made by Shin Yeon Hee as well as correct her title to “Mayor”.

Chaos broke out on the infamous streets of Gangnam last Monday as  hired “city workers” made their way down the sidewalks, evicting street vendors for establishing their stalls illegally. When faced with the word eviction, one usually brings to mind the distribution of notices  and fines. Korea, however, is no stranger to the use of more unconventional methods.

Flipped Stall

Shocking pictures and videos have flooded the internet in regards to this recent outbreak. In the videos, a mob of gangsters can be seen physically harassing the street vendors and flipping over their stalls. Not only do they flip the stalls over, but tear them apart beyond repair using hammers and bolt cutters.

Generally, the owners of these stalls tend to be old men and women which we refer to as ajummas (아줌마) and ajussis (아저씨). The sight of their distress caused a great deal of shock to the numerous onlookers, many of which were pleading with the police to step in and stop the gangsters. Regardless of age, however, the vendors did their best to defend not only their own stalls, but the stalls of neighboring vendors. Unfortunately, the struggle did not end until every stall was “evicted,” leaving several distraught vendors in the street grieving the loss of their livelihood.아줌마

According to statements made by the Gangnam District Mayor, Shin Yeon-hee, these actions were necessary in taking steps to make “Seoul Gangnam into a globally recognized area”. After taking office in 2010, she has been waging war not only on nighttime stalls but also prostitution and other illegal activities. She went further to state that these stands needed to be “eradicated” not only for representing a but “decadent and morally bankrupt nightlife”, but also in order to increase tourism to the area.Aftermath

It has been against the law to set up stalls, tents and booths on the streets since 2011. To enforce this law, the district office hired “temporary service workers” (용역직원). These temps arrived on buses, held no identification and were given free reign as police officers watched. With the clear presence of police officers in these videos, you may be wondering why nothing was done to stop this. The answer is simple actually, these men were hired gangsters following the orders of the local city officials.

Spilled Food

While you may think this to be the ground floor for upcoming protests, that simply isn’t the case. The use of hired gangsters to put down protests, assault labor unions, and even assault members of Parliament in Korea has a long colorful history. This may be the most recent use of such measures by the Korean government but in truth it happens quite often. In Korea it is not uncommon for district offices and even the government to turn to “Errand Centers” (심부름센터) which are well known for lending out gangsters for hire,  to clear out undesired businesses. Larger companies in Korea (in some cases known as “chaebols,” 재벌) have been known to hire them for personal and official use (most notably the chairman of Hanhwa, the 9th largest company in Korea).

Sympathy for the shopkeepers is abundant but it’s not difficult to see that agendas are being pushed or pursued. The President herself has taken a hardline against the underground economy here with claims that up to 24% of the nation’s GDP is lost due to unpaid taxes. It’s hard to believe that these shops sell that much snack food not to mention the fact that the figure has little truth behind it.Aftermath

Reactions are varied but the reasoning behind these moves (this is not the first occurrence) is clear. First to clean up Korea’s image and secondly to scapegoat out smaller business owners. With street food being a large drawing point for tourists and no one being a fan of harassment (especially of the elderly), one has to wonder if any of this is actually helping Korea’s image.

NOTICE: Hello everyone! I would just like to thank you all for your feedback and comments. If any of you have any additional information relevant to this subject, please cite/source your information with reputable sources and I’ll update this post as soon as I can. Thanks for dropping by.

About these ads

128 thoughts on “Beyond Gangnam’s Style

  1. That’s sad. I actually enjoy the street food when I visit Korea. To see them employ gangsters and make use of rough methods is sad to see especially as these people are simply trying to make a living.

    • noooo, these street vendors are like illegal thugs
      vendors form their own gangsters around to invade into crowded streets and they use their gangsters to draw away other street vendors. Please don’t feel pity towards these filthy peasants that violates law and always tries to bring their order to the streets. Because of them korean tax money are well wasted and they pay nothing to no one, except to pay for their own gang. Its ridiculous feel bad towards them. government’s job was needed long time ago because these vendors ruin streets causing traffic and exist as an illegal business paying no tax while hurting local businesses while hoarding on public properties.
      please note that food might be appealing but vendors are the gangs. not the poor muscles employed by the korean government.

      • There are much more civilized methods to controlling this situation. Street food is part of Koreas charm and does not need to be eradicated to present a “globally recognized area.” There is street food (such as sausages and pretzels) for sale in major business areas all over the world. If the government is worried about tax money, they should be asking the vendors to have permits or pay fines for not complying. They should not be destroying property. Regardless of how much tax money is “being lost” to the vendors, a public and violent reaction is not something that is going to bring support to their cause. Especially from the rest of the civilized world.

      • I agree with u. We dont need to feel that pity. Those illegal vendors earn a lot of money cuz they dont need to pay rent payment or taxes whereas the PROPER SHOPs must pay to maintain the shop. I think Gangnam district has to make either those vendors to pay small amounts of money to allow them to sell or find another way to fine them. Otherwisei guess it ll continue being issue like this.

      • Holy crap you must be such a ****. So trash the livelihood of somebody your grandmother’s age using gangsters is totally okay? Mommy and daddy must have given you a real nice allowance your whole life.

      • WOW, Holly Yoo, you have no concept of reality. The economic value of taxing the vendors does not equate to this type of violence. Did you know that these vendors add to the economy of Korea also? They purchase goods, they bring in tourism, and they have been members of society there…. most of them being seniors citizens who have been working these streets since I was a child… over 30 years. Its tradition, and traditions shouldnt be taken for granted. Also, you state that they fund their own “Gangs”? Where are their gangs during this violence? Where is their protection that you are accusing them of finding?

      • Are you serious? The government lied, they said they got rid of these people to make Gangnam global and foreign friendly. That makes no sense, why are they trying so hard to look like a western city? Foreigners like seeing traditional street food stands, it’s what makes Korea special, like a New York City street hot dog vendors. You are so passionate about this cause, but are you blind to the fact that there is a much more insidious and global illegal business in Korea that generates 4% of the GDP ($13 Billion Dollars) and causes much more harm – it’s called prostitution and human trafficking. It’s everywhere in Seoul and abroad. Korean women are filling brothels and massage parlors in Tokyo, Australia, US, Canada, Singapore – we’re talking 300,000+ people. But you’re more passionate about some old people selling snacks illegally on the street. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if you are a NIS agent posting propaganda like the ones they hired to post 20,000 negative posts on SNS sites during local elections.

      • Wow. This is so inaccurate it makes me upset to read. Ridiculous to feel bad? No, it’s the humane reaction to feel bad when something violent like this happens to another person. Especially when it has to do with their livelihood. I’m sorry you might’ve had a bad experience but don’t immediately categorize all street vendors because of it. This is the very thing why some international governments don’t take the Korean government seriously. They fist fight during official government gatherings and take issues to a personal level. As a Korean this is very embarrassing. I’m proud of the many accomplishments my mother country has made in the last few decades but actions like this take it back another century. There’s a diplomatic way to resolve this issue. And getting spicy rice cakes and fish cake on a stick should not be categorized as a ‘decadent and morally bankrupt nightlife.’ That is just nonsense.

      • If they are “filthy peasants” what the heck does that make you? You come across as some ignorant nobel from the old days of kings and queens. How did that work out for Korea? If you are in the upper 1% then I imagine you don’t pay anywhere enough taxes. Therefore how in the heck can you sit there and complain about their taxes. You seem like some “filthy rich person” Remember during the Japanese occupation? No you do not because if you did, you would realize being poor and abused by people in power really sucks! Ask you grandmother or parents and if they don’t remember or forgot to teach you the lesson of the past read a book or two. It is easy to have so much and turn your back on such abuse and cruelty with a blind eye, just like… wait for it… Screw it, go back to high school and take history again.

  2. so these people have been breaking the law for nigh on 3 years and we’re supposed to feel sympathy for them?

    • I don’t think anyone is denying that they are breaking the law, but the way things are being handled is a bit extreme. Imagine your city hiring someone to destroy your car for parking in a handicapped spot. There are simply better ways to handle these matters. That’s what fines and confiscations are for.

      • Fines for undocumented businesses, and confiscation which costs the taxpayers money in storage and manpower? It’s been glossed over that during the 3 years these people have been told numerous times to leave, they just run around the block or ignore it. if I parked in a handicap spot for 3 years and kept ignoring the police, I might expect them to destroy my car at some point. (try that again clicked the wrong reply)

      • The thing is, destroying your only source of income isn’t the same as destroying a car. These victims were someone’s grandparents and they needed to make money to feed their family (Elders don’t have a wide variety of job opportunities, especially in this tough economy).
        Also, imagine a mob of gangsters invading your parents and imagine the authorities, whom YOU’ve payed taxes for in exchange for their services and that you have entrusted to protect you, to stand there and watch. This is a violation of human rights. Imagine how helpless your parents might feel. Just because a government-if you’ve lived in the U.S. and heard about the Constitution you should know this by now-says its the right thing to do, doesn’t mean you should be passive and accept it as it is. The government is for the people! I am so upset that there are people who are watching these acts of crimes and accepting it-mindsets like yours are why there are hate crimes in the world.
        A simple notice of eviction or a fine would have sufficed wouldn’t you say? Instead of the humiliation and emotional and physical scars.

      • I think the point is that not all street vendors have goodwill in mind. Because they dont have degrees in school, or they did not try hard enough, or maybe just unlucky they force people out of regular jobs. If you worked or even owned a restaurant down the street, and these people were stealing your business. You would be out of work. And in Korea, once your out of work its hard to find another job. I’m sure they’ve been given tickets and warnings pertaining to they’re cease of business operations, but have ignored it.

    • Fines for undocumented businesses, and confiscation which costs the taxpayers money in storage and manpower? It’s been glossed over that during the 3 years these people have been told numerous times to leave, they just run around the block or ignore it. if I parked in a handicap spot for 3 years and kept ignoring the police, I might expect them to destroy my car at some point.

      • I don’t think ‘costing the taxpayers money’ is enough of a reason to resort to violence and destruction on a scale this large, especially from the government, which is supposedly for the people, by the people. It costs tax payers money to hire these thugs as well, and fines would probably benefit the government, if you want to go that route.
        Even though what they did was illegal, if they were around for that long, and are recognized to be such an inherent part of Korean culture, why is it illegal in the first place? And what message is the action of hiring such thugs sending?

      • For police to remove your illegally parked car after numerous fines is one thing, but for unidentified hammer-wielding men to appear and then smash up your livelihood in 2014 to restore a “moral nightlife” is quite another (–These are the same men I’ve seen go so far as to kick a pregnant women in the stomach at peaceful sit-in protests when the government chooses to develop people’s homes into more businesses). There’s obviously some compromises that can be made here if officials are able to see outside their “moral” right…

    • It’s unfortunately the only way these people can make a barely decent living and it’s something they have done for many years; it’s a longstanding tradition. The methods used to enforce this law were extreme and unacceptable. And to restate what was said above: this is violence against the elderly. If you don’t feel that using these kinds of scare tactics on the elderly is wrong, then I don’t know how else to explain it.

    • you don’t need to feel sympathy for anyone if you don’t have it. The point here is that Shin prefers handling situations like a thug instead of using her brain. The should have set up a perimeter, maybe arrested the vendors first, then with police control, the police should have given the go-ahead on removing the stalls. Clean, professional, smart. Shin’s method instead just created chaos along the street and now world-wide disapproval. good job Shin

    • Martinet rigidity in support of hired thugs is disgusting. When the law is unjust resistance is duty. Authoritarianism is the world’s leading problem. Nary another word to add.

    • Your comment really shows that you have no idea about Korean government or society. Corruption, violence, and suppression are part of Korean government and culture to a degree difficult to understand in the United States and the handful of other wealthy countries which Westerners often believe the world to consist of.

      Some examples are that corporations (chaebols) own, operate, and exploit to degrees that make US megacompanies seem tame, the very language has constant comparisons of status and power built into its very verb structure, the police and much of the judicial system are useless, even peaceful protest is regularly suppressed, people go to prison for criticizing the government, 30,000 foreign troops occupy prime land against the will of much of the population, much of the population still supports governments that mass-murdered and tortured Koreans while embezzling billions of dollars, and Confucianism allows a degree of abuse that is difficult for Westerners to comprehend.

      My point is, that law and order and everything have very different definitions in Korea (and most of the rest of the world) than they do in the US and the West. Your analogy to occupying a handicapped parking space shows that you don’t know this- traffic codes, judicial systems, and criminal law don’t even function in large parts in Korea, and people ignore the law regularly in all of these areas.

      The messed up thing is, parts of the Korean government is using violence and unregulated thugs to target poor shopkeepers and doing it in the name of morality. It’s not about them stamping out corrupt or lawless areas- it’s about them terrorizing their own people using lawless methods, promulgated by the law.

    • The Korean economy doesn’t provide the elderly with ample opportunities for jobs. In fact, there are studies that show that Korean industries/businesses start to cut people around their late 40s and early to mid-50s. Unfortunately, most Korean families still have families to provide for leaving many without a source of income. In addition to that, Koreans have a lot to pay for, may it be education, may it be taxes on other things, etc.

      Senior citizens have it the worst in Korea. There aren’t enough places for them to go and the government doesn’t do a great job of taking care of these people. It’s sad, really. You don’t know how many elderly men/women go about picking up recyclable trash by the kilo on the streets and trading that in for a meager 200 won.

      It is true that they have been conducting illegal business for three or so years, but it isn’t like their lack of taxation on these street vendors has put the economy in THAT big of a deficit. If you calculate all the money that these street vendors put INTO the economy by way of purchase of supplies, purchase of daily necessities, purchase of household goods, purchase of gas, payment on housing, etc. these people contribute a lot more than the government has let on. In addition to that, you have to realize that these people attract A LOT of tourists. If you take the street vendors away, you would lose a lot of tourists, and with that the downfall of many businesses, may it be the makeup industry, may it be the clothing industry, may it be the office supply industry, etc.

      HOWEVER, in the end, they were conducting illegal business and should be evicted. It’s just a matter of humane vs. inhumane. These are elderly folks who are just trying to get by. The government shows them little to no support, they don’t want to be burdens to their families, and they don’t want to die in poverty.

  3. You are indeed correct that these street vendors not paying taxes does not add up to 24% of GDP. ALL owners of larger businesses have figured out every dodgy loop hole possible to avoid paying tax. But it’s far easier to hassle old ladies selling fish cakes on the street. And let’s face it, the president of this place is only a friend of the upper class. Korea=shitty American capitalism on steroids.

    • Disagree. There is a lot more socialist policies in Korea than the US, and the gap between the rich and the poor is less. In other words, America would be the one on steroids, not Korea.

      • Joshua, the income gap between the rich and poor in Korea is the highest of all OECD countries. On top of that, Korea spends less than 2% of it’s total GDP on public benefits whereas the US spends about 10%. At a glance it would seem Korea is much less Socialist than America is.

      • Where did you get that statistics? Are you Al Gore? The Gap between rich and poor is not greater than US. What about nearby small food store owners who are paying a high RENT and TAX and doing business abiding by the local LAW? The illegal street venders are stealing from the hard working small food business owners, and they are not paying a nickle to the Government.
        They are warned for really long period time by a local authority but have been ignoring. A lot of people want to do a business at such a great location and make money. However they don’t, because it is NOT legal.
        So, people keeping the law are stupid?
        .

      • If they wanted to remove the stalls, there are numerous amounts of other ways they can remove the stalls. Breaking the stalls and throwing the food just costs more money for everyone. The stupid ass governor could’ve done a better job by doing something that is less violent. Even though if they don’t make taxes or whatever, force isn’t necessary. Like if you don’t pay rent for a house, you don’t necessarily get all your stuff broken. They just remove it

  4. The gangnam corner is the most expensive piece of realestate in Korea. A cart can make millions of won because they estimate foot traffic to be up to 200,000 per day. Everyone including their cousins want to set up a cart there since they can make more money than 50% of the jobs in Korea. The vendors were warned and I am sure they have heard that as it happened before their carts can be destroyed. But they chose to break the law anyway. In addition there is some speculation that because there is so much money thugs actually collect a lot of protection money or actually hire ajjuma employee and take all the profits. Someone is keeping the vendor space in check since everyone is going to drag out their cart in gangnam if someone was not. Certainly the government can do this a better way. Arrest them in cuffs. But there is probably a reason why they dont. This is not a oh those poor ajjummas story.

    • Exactly. Imagine the optics if instead the cops frogmarched a bunch of old people off in paddywagons. I can only imagine the bellyaching at that point.

  5. This is an issue that needs some good investigative journalism. The confrontations in the videos have been happening atleast since July 2012, when I first witnessed a similar one. Two that I witnessed involved “gangsters” on both sides, protecting the vendors and trying to clear them out.
    Is it an issue of tax revenue, public health & safety, transport, or something else? Tax revenue, then you could require all food vendors to have licenses to sell. Food safety, health course certifications. Public safety, limited # of permits per area. This creates govt. Bureaucracy, jobs, source of revenue. You can look at any major city in the US and see the corruption within these bureaucracies.
    I grew up in mom and pop small businesses so I feel for the vendors. I see them as low hanging fruit. Who’s going to get it next? I see a much larger attack on working class and middle income individuals in Korea.

    • Poorest people? Ok, if these were vendors in those places where there an’t much people I will agree with your agreement. However, these ones in Gangnam? They really scrape money. You eat there for couple of minutes and they make like 60 dollars easy. All those money? Pure profit. The fact that these vendors make lots of money is already well known and that is why people in Gangnam does not sympathize with them anymore. Because you dress up like a poor lady does not make you a poor people. They drive BMW when they go back home.

  6. This is a complex problem. I have seen documentaries of people in the low socioeconomic levels make a living through street stalls. Sometimes, they are people who are unemployed or even single parents trying to make ends meet. But I am also aware that there are lots of illegal activities that go around when they do business on these streets (gangsters, not paying tax, fighting over selling spots, etc.). And, I know the police have been working to try and get the street sellers off the streets for years after it became illegal, but there has not been much progress. Consequently, today illegal street stalls have become part of the culture and we think it is terrible when they are told to go somewhere else. I myself personally like going around the streets to eat cheap, delicious ready-made food, but if I think of the illegal activities that are happening behind scene, it makes me think twice.

    Perhaps, a better solution would be for the Korean government to designate market areas around Seoul, where these people can go and continue their business, the right way. Of course, if this happens the police and the law enforcement will have to be there to “protect” these people from gangsters and keep on eye on them to make sure they pay their taxes. I would not want the same mistake that happened in Greece to recur in Korea.

  7. A problem with these carts is that there are designated spaces for these businesses. Just nearby, vendors pay for these spaces while trying to make an honest business while the illegal vendors cheat the system.

    I do not agree with the way Gangnam district officials handled this matter but this article should shed some more light on the bigger picture instead of simply focusing on what was visible to the eye.

    • The idea that something has been deemed illegal should not make it wrong.
      pojang maja, to me, are usually a dilapidated, sad, unclean eye-sore, BUT the people have a right to make a living any way they can–morally–and especially when most of the citizens participate.
      These people are an enormously monumental part of the Korean culture and economy–even if they don’t pay taxes.
      Korean socioeconomic disparity, pressure, and unfairness is off the charts–and this just made it worse.
      The government is embarrassinly and shamefully wrong–and quite in need of international scorn and action by the Korean people.

      • Your argument is basically to act like a child because your parents made a rule you don’t like, so you’re going to whine and bitch about it and break that rule because you don’t think it’s fair. Then get upset when you get caught and punished for breaking the rule when you knew you were doing wrong in the first place.

        You’re probably a liberal so it’s interestingly hypocritical how now it’s ok if these people don’t pay taxes just because you think they are at the lower end of the socio spectrum (when in actuality they are quite wealthy)

    • Morality and the matter of law are mutually exclusive. Economic disparity in South Korea is quite within normal means of developed nations. I’m not sure how you’re defining “unfairness” but I’ll let that slide. Taxation is a fundamental requirement for any citizen, regardless of nation. Redistribution is the fundamental purpose of any government. Whether the South Korean government is doing this “fairly” is irrelevant to street vending.

      • You both make an erroneous and somewhat elitist point by suggesting that tax-evasion warrants such anti-Korean, anti-human, and anti-harmonious behavior in the form of such low-class and barbaric behavior as violent bullying to force an instant cultural change.

        You also validate the goon squads should they ever come breaking YOUR skulls.

        The thing is, gentlemen, democracy was given to Korea, and though historian Chalmers Johnson has written that South Korea has the most successful democracy in Asia (and I like Chalmers Johnson), the professor didn’t LIVE there, as I have; and I would say South Koreans DO NOT actually embody the democratic cognition and spirit they so actively try to represent (though I respect their time-honored diligence in working on it). The proof of that is behavior like this and your advocacy of it. In the least, it is your job and the job of the citizenry of South Korea to come down swift and hard against politicians who hire gangsters to beat up their own citizens rather than to beef up penal and legislative procedures to enact change. And this behavior (as well as your embarrassment-inspired support of it–in your wish that Korea could be more high class over night), to me, indicates the very anti-democratic blood–in the form of Confucian totalitarianism–still coursing through the national circulatory system in the body Korean.

        To your accusation that I am a thinking, courageous, loving and progressive person, I stand proudly guilty; oh– sorry… YOU used the right-wing and hijacked bastardization of ‘thinking, courageous, loving and progressive’, commonly bandied in ignorant and intolerant circles as ‘liberal’. The only people who use that great word as a pejorative are people who are fearful, draconian, and (here’s another bastardization used as a euphemism to cover up totalitarian beliefs) “conservative” (they also lack a dictionary at their disposal).

    • “The thing is they make over 10K a month, but don’t pay tax, rent, and they don’t listen when cops tell them to leave nicely.”

      No, that’s not the thing, though I will agree it has proven to be a mitigating issue; the thing is, in a democracy, the iron-clad policy is to have a public discussion in the media and civic circles to call attention to the participants’ contribution to a social issue, then, after consensus, to enact laws, and then to enforce them in a human, practical, and efficient means where all participants (citizenry, law-enforcement, education, and government sectors) come together to accomplish the agreed upon changes and law enforcement peacefully so as not to injure anyone or to ensure the least social, financial, and economic repercussions. What has happened here is, people with an elitist state of mind who want Korea to appear sophisticated, have pulled government strings or supported ultra-”conservative” (read draconian) measures that are reflected in violent repression of a cultural norm practiced for decades. In the process, great shame and embarrassment has been brought to Korea in the eyes of the international community and has made Korea look like a banana republic such as we haven’t seen since the days of Latin American dictatorship. THAT’S “THE THING”. A good Korean-American friend of mine has put it this way: “They want to make Gangnam “Gangnam Style”, which is embarrassing, because that song is a lampoon of the shallowness of Gangnam.

      You both make an erroneous and somewhat elitist point by suggesting that tax-evasion warrants such anti-Korean, anti-human, and anti-harmonious behavior in the form of such low-class and barbaric behavior as violent bullying to force an instant cultural change.

      You also validate the goon squads should they ever come breaking YOUR skulls.

      The thing is, gentlemen, democracy was given to Korea, and though historian Chalmers Johnson has written that South Korea has the most successful democracy in Asia (and I like Chalmers Johnson), the professor didn’t LIVE there, as I have; and I would say South Koreans DO NOT actually embody the democratic cognition and spirit they so actively try to represent (though I respect their time-honored diligence in working on it). The proof of that is behavior like this and your advocacy of it. In the least, it is your job and the job of the citizenry of South Korea to come down swift and hard against politicians who hire gangsters to beat up their own citizens rather than to beef up penal and legislative procedures to enact change. And this behavior (as well as your embarrassment-inspired support of it–in your wish that Korea could be more high class over night), to me, indicates the very anti-democratic blood–in the form of Confucian totalitarianism–still coursing through the national circulatory system in the body Korean.

      To your accusation that I am a thinking, courageous, loving and progressive person, I stand proudly guilty; oh– sorry… YOU used the right-wing and hijacked bastardization of ‘thinking, courageous, loving and progressive’, commonly bandied in ignorant and intolerant circles as ‘liberal’. The only people who use that great word as a pejorative are people who are fearful, draconian, and (here’s another bastardization used as a euphemism to cover up totalitarian beliefs) “conservative” (they also lack a dictionary at their disposal).

  8. To say that these small food carts cost korea 24% of it’s GDP sounds extremely off. If the Korean government is going to talk about people not paying taxes it should resort to samsungs chairman not paying for taxes and then was bailed out for jail time by the korean government (FYI Samsung makes 25 percent of south koreas GDP and if your telling me these little itty bitty shops make as much as samsung that sounds ludacris). The only way you can see the corruption is to actually live in korea and watch the korean news. Even though this is illegal they should have handled the situation much better. I have sympathy for the elderly because my grandmother is my personal role model, one of korea’s core traditional values is to respect your elders and this clearly shows the opposite and wrong way of doing things in korea, it sets a bad example. The korean mayor, while I understand is trying to help the situation should’ve handled it ALOT better then this.

  9. This is ridiculous. Banning prostitution and all illegal activities is reasonable but.. these street vendors? Realistically, they are one of the poorest people in South Korea and this is their only way to live.

    Instead of destroying their way of life, maybe enforcing taxes and restrictions.
    I’m sure they would be more willing to negotiate taxes and actually follow through than loosing their lifeline.

    Not to mention, trying to make it a globalization?
    Street vendors are PART of the “tradition” and “culture” of Korea. Everybody that’s ever been to Korea, want to go back just for the street vendors.

    Such a rant, but.. why is this even happening.

    • They do not listen. Hope you know that most of thrm working in dong de moon are goddamn rich. Also it is not only way to live. They could go to super market and work legally. What you are saying is that only thing theif can do for living is stealing, not working legally

    • You have to understand, though, that they have been receiving notice for three-ish years. And, there are licenses that allow for them to continue their businesses in a similar manner. They would be healthier, safer, and most importantly, legal.

    • That still in no way justifies the moral & ethical reason for tearing their cart up in front of them and hiring those filthy thugs to do their dirty work for them. I’ll go as far as to propose that we all bycott Korea. Part of korea’s charm are those food carts, many of us don’t go there for the place.Its the culture thats important. I for one will not be going to Korea and I will encourage all my friends and associates to do likewise. Lets see who causes the government to lose more if the video goes viral, tourism or the ‘taxes’

  10. Perhaps rather than hiring goons to publicly destroy the food stalls, the city should come up with a way to legalize and regulate (sanitary guidelines, designated areas for business, etc.) these underground businesses. I hardly think that nighttime stalls are remotely similar to other illegal activity such as prostitution that the mayor is trying to get rid of. Many world-class cities (e.g. Taipei, Hong Kong) have food stalls and street food vendors and they attract locals and tourists alike.

  11. What a joke…
    Illegal activities should be dealt with, but not in this way. The government officials themselves are taking illegal action to solve one. What kind of message does that send to people? Seriously, who elected her as the Head of District Office? She’s a joke and I am embarrassed that she calls her one of the representatives of Korea.
    By the way I have a question to ask to the Head of District Office since you are so worried about unpaid taxes. Do you collect income taxes from the gangsters your office has hired? What a load of non sense. Eradicate underground economy by using one. Just leave the office for someone more suited for the position.

    • Dude. Im from korea and i know this stuff well. First they get warning. Pay tax(seller license stuffs) otherwise move out. But they listen. Have you ever thought why those agents are so aggressive? Bez they do not listen. You punch them on the face today but they will show up tmr. They are zobies. YOU TRULY GOTTA KNOW THE STORY AND TALK

  12. You guys are missing goddamn point. They are told to move or pay the tax. But they did not take any action. They are way richer than you guys think. Many of them ride bmw,benz, and etc. Nothing wrong with riding these expensive cars but something wrong with not paying the tax. They are criminals okay? They are not poor. They are rich but they dont pay tax. Thet get all the benefits but dont pay tax. These people are truely the ‘bad’ sides of society. Hope you guys understood.

  13. This is a disgusting form of blatant gentrification. I really hope that this is a problem that can be dealt with in a more civil and empathic manner in the future.

    • As a long-term resident of this country, I’ve seen a cycle of tolerance and strict reinforcement. Usually, street vendors are given a grace period to pay taxes on earned income and real-estate use to the city, as they do not pay rent. A separate ordinance was passed to regulate street vendors based on health requirements but these street vendors simply do not choose to cooperate. When push comes to shove, you have to push.

      • There is a civil and ethical way to settle this dispute, This is beyond ridiculous. The government is severely lacking in morals and anything to do with it. If this video goes viral, the amount of tourism dollars the government loses will be a far cry from whatever you wish to collect from these small stalls. Plus, these stalls are part of the charm of going to Korea. Without it, not everyone can tolerate going there to see KPop.

  14. Wow! I’ve heard of negative reenforcement but this is incredible! Is it not enough to have law enforcement serve fines and arrests for illegal vending? Or do you think this is a way of shaming people into submission? It’s a tragic turn of events and I’m curious to see if it will draw more scrutiny into the use of thug violence on vendors.

  15. there’s something you guys have to know, which is that was totally illegal and they had been requested many times to stop selling food by illegal form that you can see above.
    And as you can see, that food is made by dirty means, using ‘sewage’.
    Do you want to eat them? And even if they are pity, do you let them do illegal?
    From. korean student

  16. I’m so shocked to read about this. Lived in Korea during 2012. I can’t believe that they would try to remove/prohibit such a great characteristic of Korean culture and ‘Gangnam’ – regardless of the political motives. How dull would the streets be!! Shame on you!

  17. The funny this is that street food is becoming MORE popular around the world now, not less. If Gangnam wants to bring in more tourism, they should keep the carts there and just make them safer/cleaner if possible. Destroying them in such an obvious and disrespectful manner is more uncivilized than anything else.

  18. Is anything being done on the grassroots side to protest the treatment of these vendors? Who can we write to to express our concern over it? As a Korean-American, It’s an embarrassment to me to see this happening. I hardly believe any of the vendors went their career because it was lucrative, but because it was their only way to survive. Why not implement a permit system for a nominal fee that can lightly regulate the market rather than hire goons to act in violence?

    • The city does have permits and only allows street vendors confined to city-provided dwellings with running water.

  19. Reblogged this on excrapolate and commented:
    How is this right for a government to crack down on illegal street vendors by hiring thugs to destroy their only form of livelihood? #korea #southkorea #gangnam #food #justice #humanrights

    • you mention human rights here?, do they even have rights to sell food there ‘illegally’? nothing is right out of their doing. this might be their only form of income, then rent a place and pay tax so it continues.

  20. Unbelievable. Street food was one of my favourite things about living in Korea, but just the method itself is so contrary to the intent. Why would tourists flock to spend their dollars somewhere after they’ve seen something like that happen? Beyond issues of justice, most tourists tend to question whether their own personal security would be at risk before they decide to travel somewhere… It all seems so… stupid??? I mean, the government could issue fines — and even charges. Would people be willing to not be rent or taxes if it meant having a criminal record? It sounds like the whole operation was set up to fail from the get-go, starting with the temps.

    • Good point. It was a bit brash. But the city has ordinances that govern street vendors to limited areas (i.e., downtown) that meets safety regulations. It’s also impossible to tax these vendors as they would just run.

    • I agree. Pojanmacha was part of my first cultural introduction to Korea, and I was very close with a girl whose family depended on it. It is funny how the middle class-to-rich are quick to bite the hands that fed their economy after a horrible period of war and deprivation. And for people herein to say there is no way to tax those people is more stupid than actually beating up on these people eking out a living. The government could have cleaned up taxing them in a moderate fashion, but they did not want to enforce laws allowing it; they wanted to crush it. I would have been one of the people castigating the police boys, had I been there when this happened. It is nothing less than a moral outrage. And the Korean people on this page–or people of Korean descent herein–really show their inability to reflect imagination and compassion, two major parts indicative of this pie.

  21. Pingback: Picking up the Trash in Seoul | Kitten Ghost

    • Obviamente la mejor manera es respetar y cumplir la ley, estoy totalmente de acuerdo. Pero cantos de nosotros hemos vivido respetando toads las leyes. No porque la genre pague sus impuestos está cumpliendo con la ley. Cuantos de ustedes ha manejado alguna vez tomado, o hablado por teléfono manejando(en Corea es ilegal), o ha cruzado alguna vez la calle con luz roja, o fumado en algún lugar no permitido, o simplemente tirade alguna vez basura en el suelo. Todas estas son leyes que muchos de nosotros no cumplimos, y no por eso now maltratan o now cortan las manos para que no lo volvamos a hacer.

      Muchas empresas grandes tampoco cumplen con la ley y no pagan de igual manera los impuestos, perl porque son la cara del país y el futuro de la economía coreana, los dean ahí como si nada pasara. No pagan impuestos, perl nadir les manda mafiosos al lugar para que destruyan todo lo que encuentre a su paso. Creo que una cosa no da derecho a la otra. La LEY NUNCA ESTÁ SOBRE LOS DERECHOS HUMANOS.

    • RIDICULOUS. Where are your morals. If you think this is fine, what if someone comes and rips your life apart? These are old people we are talking about. They re part of the culture & charm that makes tourists like us to go Korea. The street food is one of a kind and we like it. Taking it away will cause you to lose tourist dollars and the backlash when such a thing goes viral. Those thugs don’t have an honest way of living because I’m personally disgusted at how they are. This has changed my perception of Korea and I don’t think I’ll be going there anytime soon.

    • Laws are Laws…. yes. Isn’t “assault & battery” a Law too? Especially here, when the local gov. hired “random” people to do this (showing obvious “intent” into the act of)? Given the fact that the city probably gave an eviction notice, I think they should have just removed the stalls at night (when it’s closed and wrapped up) and leave a sticker on the sidewalk (as for illegal parking).

      What they have done here hasn’t cleared the sidewalk nor helped local businesses. By brutally destroying and not picking up the stalls they just made a huge scene, showed that the local gov. has no common sense and discouraged any tourists to go into the area.

      The Laws are clearly misapplied here.

  22. No matter how much money vendors earn or how many warmings they got. No government should be allowed to use of violence to reinforce the laws. We don’t live in a fascist society!

  23. Looks like south is starting to go the way of north.
    Before you start thinking these are good idea’s consider how it’s worked out for them.

  24. Oh my God, this is really sad… The biggest problem here, is that old people can´t get work in anything beside this kind of illegal way.
    The government does´t give them any solution to their living, and take out from them the only way they have to live.
    I think, that if the government give them a better solution that this illegal way, of course they will take it, but for now there is not.
    (sorry for my english..)

  25. Anyhow, no natter if the street vendors were illegal and causing less business for restaurants, this definitely does not better tourism and “global view” on the city. Globally, this would look like a SCANDAL.

    If anything, it LOWERS the perspective of Gangnam and its tourism. This is the vendors’ life. Their income. So maybe there actually are a few shady things. But even so, globally this wouldn’t be known. So this does not help Gangnam be “globally recognized”.

    If even after warnings and fines the vendors would not move, there are many ways to deal with a case like this. If there are suspicions or known things, they should go after them with real proof and real police. The idea of police working with gangsters would be seen as quite the scandal in most countries.

    Most likely, if the ACTUAL POLICE came to talk to the vendors and explain that they were to close up or be have the stalls CONFISCATED, this would not have been such a big issue. After all, it is illegal. The fact that HIRED GANGSTERS cleaned up an issue by DESTROYING PROPERTY is horrible.

  26. The street vendors WERE breaking the law. When you break the law, there are consequences. Albeit, the methods are questionable. However, the officials are trying to send a message? This just reinforces how primitive Korea still is.

  27. please note that food might be appealing but vendors are the gangs. not the poor muscles employed by the korean government.

    Reply
    JUSITNE says:
    March 12, 2014 at 10:56 pm
    There are much more civilized methods to controlling this situation. Street food is part of Koreas charm and does not need to be eradicated to present a “globally recognized area.” There is street food (such as sausages and pretzels) for sale in major business areas all over the world. If the government is worried about tax money, they should be asking the vendors to have permits or pay fines for not complying. They should not be destroying property. Regardless of how much tax money is “being lost” to the vendors, a public and violent reaction is not something that is going to bring support to their cause. Especially from the rest of the civilized world.

    JUSTKIRSTY says:
    March 4, 2014 at 6:34 pm
    Wow!!! I can’t believe i wasn’t there to film this myself. Enjoyed your blog. Well written.

    Reply
    LEXI says:
    March 5, 2014 at 12:48 pm
    Thanks so much for reading ^^

    Reply
    SMILLITON says:
    March 5, 2014 at 12:12 pm
    so these people have been breaking the law for nigh on 3 years and we’re supposed to feel sympathy for them?

  28. In Korea street vendors have been around for years. This is not the first time city goverments have enforced laws on these vendors. Spent 12 years in Korea and it is part of the culture. i’ve seen enforcement as far back as the late 80′s. A couple weeks later, the vendors are back. Yes, it needs regulation. But, it’s not just Gangnam, the vendors are in every city. If the government is going to enforce, or better yet, regulate these vendors, then do it everywhere, not just in Gangnam where some Mayor has an agenda and choses enforcement. Enforce the law everywhere, and don’t forget the market places where they have numerous vendors like Etaewon, Songnam. Regulate, outlaw or leave these vendors alone. But do it universally.

  29. This is so absurd. The government should give them alternative solutions rather then forcing them to leave. People who has street food business aren’t rich and it could be the only way they make living. It breaks my heart seeing the old lady crying in the photo would be someone’s friend, a daughter and a be loved mother. If they tought of that they can’t be so mean like that… This article shows the immaturity of the country. Truely embarrasing and deeply sad. Stuff like this will never happen in the states.

  30. Honestly, it’s not far fetched to say that Psy’s “Gangnam Style” played a role in this. The song put Gangnam on the map, and every time he was interviewed he kept saying Gangnam is the Beverly Hills of Korea, and it’s a far cry from Rodeo Drive. This put pressure to live up to this image. The irony is that everyone who is clued in knows Psy made this song as a satire of Gangnam materialism, and he’s been an outspoken non-conformist, but since he became the unofficial poster child of the district, he had to change his tune because he became responsible for Korea’s national pride and so many government and big business stakeholders.

    A more creative solution would have been for the KTO and Gangnam government to create a vendor system. Launch a local contest amongst university design students to create a modern and high-tech looking vendor stand. It can even have tourist information and maps (digital and print on the sides). It would be branded with Gangnam government logo and seal.

    Then serious vendors would have to purchase or lease this stand, pay for annual permit, taxes and monthly rent. They need to meet health inspection and food handling standards, etc… this would weed out those who are serious and willing to follow the law vs those who are not.

  31. I have such fond memories of those 떡볶이 stalls. Specially at night!
    I will never understand why after so much hard work to get rid of its dictators in the 80s Koreans elected the daughter of one of them… :-/

    • According to a Korean I met here in the States, Park Geun-hye was elected because the older generation usually doesn’t show up to vote, but everyone was surprised that so many did. She told me that Park’s party played up the fact that she is unmarried, has no kids, and doesn’t even have parents. So they pitied her and felt she needed this. Obviously that’s not a scientific assessment, but I’m sure she read articles about it following the election.

  32. I seriously dont understand people who look this illeagal. People who are upper handed and rich dont pay tax or they just skip it and no action is taken. Also people who talk laws? Seriously? I personaly beleive that law excise to protect people in Society. Isnt law for the people? If u talk about fairness? Is it fair that they are trassed out of business like this agressive action used on them. think if u and your family are in a same situation wount u do the same selling street food for living? Laws ? Korean laws are benifitual for people who have power so u call this justice? Law?

  33. It isn’t 재벌, the word you’re looking for is 대기업. The first one refers to rich kids/families. The second refers to large corporations/companies. And to be fair I think you should also mention that these ladies and gents can continue their businesses in a legal manner. There are a surprising amount of street vendors that are legal and have better places for work in certain neighborhoods.
    I do, however, agree that the method of eviction is cruel and unreasonable to say the least. These people contribute a lot to the Korean economy outside of taxes. They purchase their supplies (food, gas, etc.), they pay housing and such, they pay for phone bills, they pay for their kids to go to school, etc. These street vendors also attract tons of tourists, which is definitely a plus for the Korean economy. In that sense they may not pay taxes on their tiny businesses, but they give back a lot in other ways too.
    I would hate to see what would happen to the Korean economy if these street vendors were kicked out for good…

    • You’re right but in a lot of situations, many news outlets report on larger corporations as “chaebols.” I wanted to provide a link to that concept for readers who’ve heard that term before. I clarified in the parenthesis though. Thanks for pointing that out. ^^

  34. This is beyond ridiculous. Where is the moralistic & ethical side of society? I’m disgusted at how the governments treats these people. They are part of the culture of Korea and why we visit. We visit to see night markets and the buzz of activity. No matter how much they want to clean it up, strong arming it isn’t a method. If this goes viral, the amount of backlash and loss of tourist dollars would be much much more then how much the government wants in taxes. This really changes my perspective of Korea and how the government handles things. Disgusting. You ought to be ashamed.

  35. Clean up image??? You should capitalise on these street vendors as they are your culture! We Kdrama lovers are dying to dine at these street vendors we watch on TV everyday! Tourism is always built on culture and something which other countries can’t offer!

    Probably start licensing them and getting to pay for ‘space rental’ will be a better move than to ‘evict them’ so forcefully using hooligans!

  36. I, for one, look forward to the food stalls all over Korea. As. New Yorker (basically) I’m used to food stalls, stands, and trucks everywhere, not to mention tables of various items to be sold. Everywhere, in every Borough. Is NYC poor? That’s ludicrous.

  37. Maybe South Korea can spend money on reunifying Korea and stop spending all the money on Arms to Lockheed Martin, Halliburton and other US/Israel weapons manufacturers?

    • Spend money how? Reunification isn’t something you can buy with money.
      The NK Kim regime needs to be dismantled or reformed. It’s the NK government that threatens the world with nukes, keeps its citizens locked inside its borders, and imprisons three generations of an “offender’s” family.
      In 2000, Kim Dae-jung paid North Korea $500 million to meet him for a summit in Pyongyang. It was seen as a major step toward peace. And how long did that last? Since then we’ve had an island shelled, a ship torpedoed, and several threats of war.
      The South can’t just keep sending large sums of money across the border to make NK happy. All it does is buy propaganda and weapons to keep Kim Jong-un in power. It has the opposite effect of reunification.

  38. First of all, those “temporary service workers” wouldn’t have done their work so violently if the street vendors cooperated to the inspection. When the inspection came, workers tried to put the items back in to the cart since that’s what they came to do. The vendors refused to cooperate and started fighting back. That picture of spoiled food and old lady crying was completely her fault for fighting with the workers who were just carrying the pot back into the cart. Picture do LIES people. It’s just that the picture was taken with perfect timing.

    More specifically, I think you should look at the facts of that situation. These street vendors has occupied the streets ever since a big apartment complex was built in that block. When the apartment complex was trying to build a bike road that was included in the tenants’ apartment agreements, street vendors refused to move and the company had to delay the construction, preventing the rights that the tenants paid for. Also, whenever there is an inspection, they would simply put everything back in the cart and disappear for few hours. They don’t pay tax and they don’t have health inspections (imagine how dirty those carts may be!). Lastly, they are just ruining the businesses around the complex! Who’s going to help the good small business owners who pay taxes, receive health inspections, and make bread for their family?.

  39. I can’t believe this…they’re doing away with parts of the Korean culture. Street food has been around for many years in Korea and being able to sit and eat with the older generation brought about some warmth during those cold days…quite sad!

  40. Hi, Lexi. Great blog. As a Korean living in Canada, it gives me something to think about.
    By the way, I just wanted to let you know that 신부름센터 -> 심부름센터 (it sounds like 신부, but 심부름 actually). Looking forward to reading your next blog.

  41. the district government had asked them to leave for months, yet they would not budge. the gov notified them of the last day to remove their carts, but they were being stubborn. also, the legitimate restaurant owners in the area were losing their profit because of these illegal street vendors.

  42. Well, your statement regarding the 24% of the GDP is inaccurate. It isnt refering just to these street venodrs but to all econonic exchange that is not taxed caused owners dont check the money in. Considering the fact that you get a discount of 5 to 10% if you pay with cash, 24% is minimal. My economics professor thinks its close to 30 and that GDP per capita including the “black market” would be abour 34,000. Now you know why Koreans seem to spend so much when they officially seem to earn so little.

  43. Pingback: To Beijing and Back | sunscreenandchacos

  44. after living in korea for several years, my question is this: why are the police still so weak to the point that they cannot enforce their own laws? despite being a cultural staple, these street vendors were in the wrong, and needed to be removed for not complying. but why not by the police force? why depend on muscle for hire? perhaps i don’t understand the structure or tradition completely, but it’s contradictory to want to remove these vendors for a lack of compliance, then depend on a means outside of the law to do so.

  45. Exactly! This country is messed up, (my personal opinion). It is a complete different world, which I did not believe existed until expatriated here 2 years ago…even their so-called economic “development” is based on Confucianism, in other words abuse, corruption and violence. As a society they behave as in back in the 50′s , to explain it in some way, how archaic their views are. They proudly and with no shame at all manifest openly their racism, xenophobe and classism. It’s a repressed and unhappy nation (world’s largest drinkers, twice the Russians that come second), competition among themselves is savage and image together with money power are their most essential values. South Korea is the 2nd country with most plastic surgeries in the world, their parents gift them with their first one, when they graduate from high-school! So they may find a more successful husband or prettier wife!! They will kill themselves if bankrupt in order to save their families from the shame! Just this itself tells you how twisted it all is in Korean society, for us westerners
    These street vendors are not mostly elderly, entire families benefit and make substantial money by avoiding taxes (it’s not just the elder person in the stall that is behind it). Why its illegal? Because most of them just simply refuse to pay taxes. Do not get me wrong, I do not agree with violence, but here it still applies the law of the survival of the fittest (or law of the jungle), and believe me they use it too frequently as well. This country needs decades before it changes enough to obligate regulations. Sad but true.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s