The Salaryman

The subway stalls. You hope you will not be late for work again and finger your suit lapel. It is a navy wool blend with a red silk tie from Hyundai Department Store, which makes you feel worthy of your corporation.

When you arrive at seven forty-five in the morning, your colleagues are already at their desks. The CEO announced that due to the bankrupt national economy and the ensuing IMF crisis, employees are now required to begin work two hours earlier without overtime pay, and are dismissed at the same time they have always been, at nine in the evening, which really means anywhere from ten to twelve since, like most Korean conglomerates, your department requires ritualized company drinking. Like many of your colleagues, you are grateful to belong to the company, and though you used to mind the drinking, your wife now says you have grown to like it too much.

On the way to your cubicle, you bow slightly to Mr. Han, who has lost all his savings in company stocks and must be contemplating suicide. You too lost your savings, but thankfully didn’t have much to lose. Ms. Min, one of only two women who work in exports with you, has divorced her husband, who works in the advertising department. You suspect they still live together, for the company has taken to firing the married women. Just last month, after losing his job, an acquaintance drowned himself by jumping off Songsu Bridge into the Han River.

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