The first time I looked out our apartment window my heart sank. This is what I saw…
With time I have come to realize that this mess is actually a very intentional line of work. The owners of our apartment are an elderly Korean couple (whom we call, affectionately, ‘Pops’ and ‘Mama’– as we don’t know their names). They own this lot next door and use it as a recycling station for cardboard.
Every day Pops and Mama go around our dong (our small section of the city), with a cart either pulled by hand or by a bike, and collect cardboard. Everyone in Gwangju separates their cardboard from the rest of their garbage and puts it outside. I see older people all over the city pulling around carts collecting this cardboard.
I think our landlords do it in part to supplement their income, but also I think it gives Pops something to do (I see him out there more than Mama). I now see this lot as his workshop.