Suh Sang-Rok (easy version)

In 1997, Suh Sang-Rok was making about US$7500 a month. He was the vice-president of a big company in, Seoul, South Korea. But 1997 was a bad time for business in South Korea and Sang-Rok’s company suddenly went broke. It had been borrowing too much money and growing too quickly.

Sang-Roh didn’t lose his job right away. He kept getting paid while the company was closing down. He had nothing to do though, and he realized that before long he would be out of work. He was 62 years old but he coudn't retire because he hadn’t saved much money and he didn’t have a pension. So he started thinking about what he was going to do next.

He decided he didn’t want to stay in the business world. He was tired of that kind of life. He was especially tired of having to eat everyday with his company’s bankers and having to lie to them so they would lend the company more money. He said he often had to eat five or six meals a day. He called it a “pig's life.”

During that time, Sang-Rok also started to think about “values”—the Korean ideas about good behaviour that he had followed all his life. One of these ideas was that “status” was very important. Most people believed the way to get status was to have a high-level job and a good salary. And most people believed that if you lost a good job, you lost status.

After thinking about all this for a while, Sang-Rok decided he didn’t believe that the status of a well-paid job was an important value. He realized you could be a good person without having a high-level job and that having a job you like is the most important thing. If you like your job, it’s a good job; if you don’t like it, it’s a bad job even if it’s well-paid.

So Sang-Rok started looking for another kind of job—as a waiter in one of the expensive restaurants he had spent so much time in. At first, he couldn’t find anything. Restaurant owners were worried that customers who knew Sang-Rok would not be comfortable with him waiting on them.

Finally, Sang-Rok found a job in expensive hotel in downtown Seoul. In the beginning he was paid about $US750 a month—about ten percent of what he had been earning in the business world.

He was happy about his new life because he didn’t have to lie anymore and his wife was happy because he had more time to spend with her. He found that some customers who he had worked with in the past were uncomfortable being waited on by him, but this was not a serious problem. Once he said, a customer asked him, “If you, a vice-president have become a waiter, what will happen to me if I lose my job?”

His answer was, “You could become a waiter’s helper.”

information from “The Toronto Star,” 1999

the vice-presidents of a company are one level below the president