It was like a bolt from the blue when I got a phone call from the hospital 5 years ago. That’s where the trouble started. After midnight, the bell rang. “Are you Mr. Kim’s family? I’m very sorry to inform you that Mr. Kim had a stroke.” I could not believe it. I could not even move my legs in surprise and fear.
Misfortunes came one after another. I failed to repay the mortgage, so I disposed of our house for public sale. Also our properties including a car, a husband’s sportswear shop and a warehouse were attached. We sold off all the properties but I still had to pay loans and taxes. Meanwhile, my third child was born. I could not receive any postnatal care since I had no way to afford it. However, I would not give up. I hoped that my children grew up to be bright and happy. I swore I would do anything I could do.
First, I had to deal with urgent issues. There wasn’t enough money to make our living, not to mention school expenses for my children who were 18 and 15 years old. I used credit cards to service other card debts, got instant cash services and got loans from non-bank depository institution for husband. Eventually my husband and I became credit delinquents. We could not live in Seoul anymore because it costs a lot of money. I asked my aunt to take care of my first daughter who should take the college entrance exam soon. Except her, my family moved to a remote country village where we managed to live by helping an acquaintance who was running a resort pension. I even did not have time to take care of my elderly daughter. However, we were forced to leave the place where we stayed in one month. With the help of a friend, we could rent a room which was 250,000 a month with down-payment of 5,000,000. But we were kicked out soon as we could not afford the monthly payment. Moreover, second daughter dropped out of school.
However, there was a ray of hope for us. That was the ‘Happiness Fund’. I had my liabilities reduced by 50 percent. I could repay the loans on 10 years installment. Therefore, I am paying 79,000 won only at a time. Those eligible for debt rescheduling can also join the program which helps us to find jobs. This program gave a huge support to someone who is trying to overcome financial challenges. Now I can see the light from the darkness. My first daughter went to college on a scholarship. After that she got a job and trying to do her best as a member of the society. Second child is now participating in an employment program and preparing to get certificates.
I think we have a bright future ahead of us. We do not need to feel nervous, gloomy, depressed or guilty anymore. Instead, we are designing our future on our own and preparing to own a small business. Once again, I really appreciate the help that gave me huge support in my life.
I believe the Happiness Fund can make a big achievement thanks to the support of many institutions. The FSC is encouraging other financial institutions to participate in the debt-relief program. Also the Korea Asset Management Corporation(KAMCO) has diverse experiences in dealing with the related funds. The FSC is trying to help debtors to find jobs, in cooperation with the labor ministry. There had been a concern that the Happiness Fund could trigger moral hazards at the beginning. However, considering the fact that around 83% of people who have benefited from this program earn less than 20 million won a year, there is no need to worry about it anymore.