SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Korea Bizwire) — It’s 4 a.m. in the morning, and street cleaner Lee Seong-hyeong, 22, is already out for work.
It takes another hour to change into a working uniform, bring out all necessary equipment and begin official duties at 5 a.m.
Despite the cold at -6 degrees celsius, Lee is soon covered with sweat after sweeping the streets for hours. “I wanted to be a street cleaner because it ensures my retirement. I can also contribute to society,” Lee said.
Street cleaners in Incheon’s Namdong District earn from 45 to 50 million won (US$38,800-43,100) in the first year, including bonuses.
Street cleaners retire at the age of 60, equivalent to other public service positions, and are offered education subsidies for children.
Becoming a street cleaner is not easy. Candidates must do at least 20 chin-ups, and hold a 25-kilogram sandbag for at least four minutes. Lee spent 12 months at a local fitness center to prepare for the job.
This year, there were 110 applicants for 16 street cleaner positions. Lee was the only applicant in his 20s to pass the screening.
Among 110 applicants, 16 of them were in their 20s (14.5 percent) and 30 in their 30s (27.2 percent). There were eight female applicants as well.
Unemployment among young South Koreans seems to have changed the perception towards street cleaners, local authorities argued.
“Street cleaners require excellent physical strength, which seems to make younger applicants think they have the upper ground,” said a Namdong District official.
“There were even cases where an office worker wanted to quit his job for street cleaning.”
H. M. Kang (email@example.com)