Many elderly men were taught to sacrifice their personal lives for their companies and to keep their emotions hidden.After retirement, they often struggle to fill their days.The middle-aged and elderly women and their customers — both pitied and scorned in this conservative country — provide a look at the dark side of South Korea’s rapid economic rise and erosion of traditional parent-child roles.
Nearly half of South Koreans age 65 and older live on less than half the national median income, and the elderly suicide rate has nearly quadrupled over the past 25 years. I bought a house for my son when he got married and I also spent a lot when marrying off my daughter,” said a divorced 71-year-old “Bacchus lady” at the plaza. I’ve been alone for a long time.” The woman, who also declined to give her name out of shame, said she has been a prostitute for many years. “I couldn’t sleep well because I agonized over whether I should be doing this.
Even now, I cannot sleep well.” The woman, dressed in a dark two-piece suit and red shoes, said she hasn’t had a customer in 10 days — a similar refrain at the plaza as the economy cools. How can they buy food when they can’t even pay their rent?
“I feel really sorry for them,” said a police officer in the area who would only identify himself by his family name, Jeong.
Lee, the professor, said that most of the women she has interviewed had dabbled in prostitution when they worked at karaoke bars and teahouses in their early years.
She started out selling Bacchus drinks about 20 years ago. She still does it so she can pay for arthritis treatment — about $250 a month.
She and her husband live with their son, a low-paid manual worker, and his family, relying partly on government subsidies. Some are ethnic Koreans from China who came to Seoul trying to find a better life.
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Others simply stopped looking out for their parents.