Shijang (market) is an on-going photo series on market vendors in South Korea who work in similar conditions as the markets that sprung up in ruins of a war ravished country in the 1950s when refugees banded together. They started markets to survive and feed their families. Today they are our grandparents: the old and the tired. Least capable of adjusting to modernity, they are the ones who've been left behind in Korea's rapid transformation into this new way of life. Yet they persist. They work everyday at the same time, no matter the weather or the circumstance. They have a strength that is increasingly rare today. Much of Korea’s inherited psyche, identity and spirit of endurance and fortitude was forged in the shijang. I can feel the spirit of my grandparents there. Because they were once one of them. They sacrificed so much so that we would escape the grips of extreme poverty. It's from there that originated the motivations that shape my parents' immigrant ambitions and aspirations.
What draws me to the shijang? The best way I can explain it is with a story. When my father was a child he once had a potbelly because of malnutrition. My grandfather caught rats to feed him and his belly disappeared. Today my family is embarrassed to tell that story. But I am proud of it. Because it is how they survived. It is why I am here. For that, I will always be grateful. Sixty years later the market is a relic that will soon disappear. But for now it is alive with a spirit unchanged.