Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Namja Shijang

We were walking up the road outside our apartment negotiating the endless sea of blue vans that is a local market day in our area, when we passed by what appeared to be a tense stand-off between a man and a female vendor. It wasn't clear what the problem was but when we returned home ten minutes later a police car was in attendance with its lights flashing. Heated explanations were exchanged while a policeman stood between the two parties.

It seems that in the run-up to the Seoul Olympics in 1988 the government, presumably wishing to present a clean and modern impression to its overseas guests, banned street vendors from using carts to sell their wares, although it apparently remains perfectly acceptable to park your blue van just about anywhere and sell from the back of that. Small wooden affairs with bicycle wheels are out though.

Like a lot of Korean street laws, it's unlikely that much heed is paid to the no cart rule, but the man seemed to object to the woman's cart for probably unrelated reasons. In any case, it looked like the woman was about to get arrested much to the man's satisfaction. My wife noticed that the woman was on her own and remarked that she didn't think the man would have made a fuss if her husband had been with her, which probably says a lot about Korean society.

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