SEOUL, May 13 (Korea Bizwire) – It has been four years since the Big Issue, a magazine published for giving the homeless the opportunity to earn their own money, came out in Korea. For these years, it is generally assumed the magazine has been a modest success.
In the beginning, the magazine was sold about 1,000 copies a month mostly in subway stations. But now as many as 20,000 copies are sold in a month, providing funds for 40 homeless people to live in rental homes with 17 full-time Big Issue vendors. The price of a Big Issue magazine is 5,000 won (US$4.88) and half of the proceeds goes to the seller.
In the April 1 issue, the members of “Infinite Challenge,” one of Korea’s most popular reality-show programs, appeared on the cover of the magazine, which attracted the attention of the general public.
At the time, the celebrities such as Yoo Jae-suk, Park Myeong-su, and the like volunteered for the photographing session for the magazine cover in commemoration of the passing away of a renowned photographer “Bori” a year ago. The entertainers donated all the proceeds to the magazines for the cause of helping the homeless.
The Big Issue is published in ten different countries. Originally established in 1991 in Britain, the magazine is sold exclusively by homeless members with some of the proceeds going to their pockets. The reason for the magazine giving the exclusive selling rights to the homeless is obvious: to give them a chance to earn their own livelihood.
In Britain alone, as many as 5,500 homeless have succeeded in standing up on their own feet by selling the magazines. In other countries such as Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan, as well as Korea, the magazine is published with success. Famous people across the world such as David Beckham, Barack Obama, and Lady Gaga allowed their faces to be put on the covers, as part of charity activity.
In Korea, the Big Issue seller, called “Big Pan” in Korean, is given 10 free copies of the magazine as soon as he is hired as a seller. If he can sell them within two weeks, he would become a full-time salesperson.
Each full-fledged vendor will be given the money to pay for a small room. There are ten commandments to the vendors, including no drinking and no smoking while selling the magazines, as well as saving at least 50 percent of proceeds every day.
There are 50 Big Issue sales locations in Seoul alone. If you hear “Big Issue, read all about it!” while walking on the street, why don’t you buy a copy? Just paying 5,000 won for a copy can be a nice gesture of charity.
Written by Jerry M. Kim (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Contributed by Sean Chung (email@example.com)