WHO IS LEE JAE-MYUNG? 2

 
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Photo from our South Korean correspondent.

WHO IS LEE JAE-MYUNG? 2

*Por Carlos Eduardo Lagos Campos

A Life Journey of Presidential Candidate Lee Jae-Myung.

2. The Stray and Anguish during the Days of 'Factory Boy'

After Jae-Myung graduated from elementary school in February 1976, his family moved to a semi-basement single room in the back alley of Sangwon Market in Seongnam City. In March of that year, one month after graduating from elementary school, he worked as a boy laborer. He was so young and could not get a job legally. He borrowed the name of an older boy in the neighborhood who could work legally to get a job. Afterward, he lived six years as a 'nameless' 'factory boy.'
As a 'factory boy,' the first thing he did was soldering. It was a place to make necklaces, but the working environment was poor. There was a briquette furnace for boiling lead, and placed a container of hydrochloric acid right next to it. The second factory job was also a place to make necklaces. He had to walk a lot longer from home, as his promised salary was three times higher than the first job. He worked 12 hours a day for three months, but his boss ran away without paying the delayed wage. He didn't get a single penny for his arduous work for three months. The poor working environment and unfair treatment experienced by the young 'factory boy' greatly influenced his later career as a labor lawyer dedicated to the rights and interests of workers in difficult circumstances.
The third factory was a rubber factory, and the working environment was also poor. It was a factory covered with rubber powder, which was worse than the briquette gas and lead smoke that the necklace factory had every day. He worked to smooth the rubber substrate with a high-speed grinder without any safety protections. It was such a difficult task that erased all the fingerprints of his fingers within two months of starting the work. He suffered from large and small cuts and repeated over time and all-night works.
According to Jae-Myung's older brother's recollection, his face was as black as a black man when he returned home from work at a rubber factory. It was because black rubber powder had piled up all over his body. He was a 'factory boy' covered in rubber powder, but when he came home, he used to rush to hug his mother warmly, calling "Mommy!". He always kept a joyful facial expression without showing any hardship. Hence, people nicknamed him 'Mooduni' (who does not give in to all kinds of difficulties).
The fourth job he got at the age of 14 was in a refrigeration company. He worked on folding and cutting tin plates there. He was cut and stabbed by tin plates countless times. As a result In 1980, after the four year of moving to Seongnam, Jaemyung’s family moved to a house on the ground and had meals to celebrate it 6 of the wounds at this time, more than 100 scars remain on his body. He was also beaten by senior workers frequently with the excuse of keeping up work discipline.
His fifth job was in a factory that made ski and baseball gloves. He had an accident to get his left wrist pressed by a press machine that makes cowhide fabric into a shape. The accident damaged the growth plate of his left arm, and his arm got twisted as he grew, forcing him to live with a 'bent left arm' for the rest of his life. Due to this disability of his left arm, he was exempted from military service later.
The most painful thing for him at the time was a boxing match, forced by senior factory workers, to bet on ice cream, Bravo cone—a famous brand of his time. Despite his sore wrist, he had to box every day. Such an ordeal motivated him to decide that he should become a factory manager to escape constant violence. But to become a manager, he needed a high school diploma. He could not afford to attend school, so the only option left for him was to pass the GED test.
At this time, the three goals that he set out show the harsh reality of his life.
First, I will live without being beaten by others.
Second, I will escape from poverty by making money.
Third, I will live freely traveling around.
At the end of April 1978, he enrolled in a prep school for the GED, and he passed the middle school GED with 13 weeks' preparation in total.
However, his life was not changed at all, even after he passed the middle school GED. He continued a difficult life of 'work and study while working at a watch factory to obtain a high school graduation qualification. He wanted to secure more time for studying alone, so he volunteered to work in the locker room in charge of the final process of the watch plating. The lacquer room was full of chemicals such as benzene and acetone. The toxic smell of those chemicals discouraged work supervisors from opening the door of the lacquer room to supervise his work. He tried to find more time for studying alone, thereby finishing plating works as soon as possible. It was a space where a 15-year-old boy could read a book alone, and it was his only escape. After such relentless efforts, he obtained his high school graduation qualification in April 1980.
The harsh reality of the working environment that Lee Jae-Myung had to go through as a juvenile worker motivated him to choose a life as a labor lawyer and a civic activist later. Even after becoming a lawyer, he thought of himself as a 'dispatched laborer' to the legal profession. He did not turn away from the hard life of marginalized people put in a similar situation to him
when he was a factory boy. He chose to live with and represent them. With these difficult experiences, his strong aspiration was incubated to contribute to building a fair society where more people have equal opportunities to realize their dreams and hopes.
That path was a healing path for himself as well. He gradually healed his sorrows, pain, and scars in mind and body by devoting himself to helping underprivileged and marginalized people like him when he was a factory boy.
Moreover, this desperate experience of his youth laid the groundwork for him to grow into a 'pragmatic reformer' as a politician who has the courage and conviction to turn every crisis The photo from his middle school GED application In 1978 when he worked at a factory making baseball gloves 7 and challenge into an opportunity. His political philosophy emphasizing 'practicality', which seeks realistic solutions to any difficult circumstances and improves the situation, stems from his experience as a factory boy for six years during his childhood. For him, 'practicality' was not simple political rhetoric or a matter of knowledge piled up in his head, but a principle of survival that he learned from harsh and intense life experiences.

*Correspondent for Colombia Latin America
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