A video showing the life of an 82-year-old woman collecting recyclable boxes for more than 14 hours a day in exchange for $2 has shed light on the extent of poverty among the elderly in South Korea.
Instead, the phenomenon can be attributed to a variety of factors, including the lack of preparation for a proper pension system, decreasing economic dependence on children, and mandatory retirement.
In the new video from Asian Boss, the woman, Ms. Yoo, gives a picture of what it is like to be poor and old in one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
Yoo has been living all by herself in a small space for five years. She does not receive support from any of her five children, whom she says are also “struggling.”
She believes that none of them want to take care of her.
“They probably don’t want to. It’s burdensome for them.”
In spite of that, Yoo says she is not disappointed in her children. She takes pride in her independence and work as a paper box collector — a 14-hour grind that earns her $2 and an aching back.
“In the morning, I leave around 7 or 8 a.m. Usually around 7 a.m.,” she tells Stephen of Asian Boss. “Maybe until 10 p.m.? Around 9 or 10 p.m.”
“But I don’t get much money,” Yoo continues. “Maybe around 2,000 won ($2). A huge pile would be around 2,000 won ($2).”
When asked if her earnings are enough to get her through, Yoo points out that she doesn’t spend much on food.
“I mainly have red pepper or soybean paste, so I don’t spend much on food. I manage to get by.”
Yoo says that her financial hardship began some seven years ago, when a van hit her on the road while she was pushing her trash cart.
“It was in July during the rainy season. When I was crossing the crosswalk, all the other cars were stopped, but a van came out of nowhere, hit me and sent me flying.”
The incident crippled Yoo for three years, draining her savings.
And while she receives a monthly pension of $200 from the government, she has no other means to make money than collect and sell boxes.
“If I get too old, I won’t be able to do it,” Yoo says before adding, “I’m sure my kids will help. My kids will.”
After following Yoo for a day, the team at Asian Boss surprised her with a donation of 1 million won ($1,000). She thanked her visitors.
“How can you give me so much money! I’m so grateful, really. God Bless you,” she tells the team.
“I was just happy to meet up with you guys, but to receive this kind of money… Thank you, I will spend it wisely.”
Asian Boss is currently collaborating with the Korean Legacy Committee (KLC) to help spread awareness on the situation of South Korea’s elderly. They are attempting to raise $100,000 to meet their goal.
Donations can be made here.