|Mr Oh sells The Big Issue Korea in Seoul.|
"One day I was wandering around the street trying to get a meal. There’s a place that provides food and someone was there giving out leaflets about The Big Issue and how it can help get you back on track. This really interested me, so I called the office."
Mr Oh has now been selling the magazine at his pitch at Exit 8 of Seoul’s Express Bus Terminal for four years. "On average I sell 30, starting around 5pm when people finish work," he says. "Some people already know about The Big Issue and buy it frequently. They ask how selling is going, and sometimes also offer me a snack – when that happens it’s really nice."
As well as earning a steady income, the street paper has helped him find a home. In South Korea, vendors who sell The Big Issue for more than six months and save more than SKW1.5 million [$1580] can apply for rental support via a government-sponsored program.
Thanks to this scheme, Mr Oh is now able to rent an apartment in the western part of Seoul. He says that having stable shelter has changed his life. "I have my own things in my house, can buy things I need and when I go to sleep I can think about the future. In the past I didn’t, because I had no hope. It has made a big difference."
Selling a street paper also reconnected Mr Oh with his family: "I live alone, but had a chance to be on TV because of The Big Issue, and my brothers noticed me and found me. I had become disconnected from my family for a long time. I met my brothers and my mother – it was fantastic."This is a summary of a vendor profile by Patrick Witton, The Big Issue Australia's Contributing Editor. He travelled to South Korea with the Walkley Foundation Australia-Korea Journalism Exchange, with support from Australia-Korea Foundation and Korea Press Foundation.
The full article has been made available to other street papers in our network via the INSP News Service here. Original interview translated by Claire Kang.