Like a scene from ‘Parasite’: Floods expose social disparity in South Korea

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Using a plastic bowl, Ha In-sik on Wednesday fetched water from his underground apartment in southwestern Seoul’s Sillim low-cost housing district, where flooding caused by the torrential rains forced his family to sleep in a nearby park.

The 50-year-old man, along with his wife and daughter, had collected appliances, furniture, books and even cutlery, and taken them outside to see what could be salvaged.

The scene bore uneasy similarities to the sewage-flooded basement apartment depicted in the 2020 Oscar-winning South Korean film “Parasite,” which chronicled growing social disparity in Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

The floods have caused inconvenience and economic loss in wealthier areas of the capital, such as the glitzy Gangnam neighborhood a few kilometers away.

But in places like Sillim, the floods have wiped out what little hope desperate people like Ha clung to to keep going.

“I have no money, nothing. But I had come here to live in this basement as it was the only option I had to live with my daughter,” Ha told Reuters.

“But now I am desperate. Everything is gone, there is no help and I don’t even have a spoon to eat.”

On Monday, three members of a family living in the neighborhood, including a woman with disabilities, drowned in their underground apartment. President Yoon Suk-yeol visited Sillim a day later.

On Wednesday, Yoon apologized for the tragedy and called for measures to improve home safety to protect the elderly, poor and people with disabilities and families, like Ha’s, whose homes were most vulnerable to flooding.

At least 10 people have died as a result of torrential rains that have hit the north of the country since Monday, knocking out power, triggering landslides and flooding roads and subways.

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As of Wednesday, six people were still missing, 570 have at least temporarily lost their homes, while 1,400 have been evacuated, mostly in Seoul, according to the Central for Security and Disaster Countermeasures.

Ha said it would take about 10 days to get her apartment back to the point where she can move back in. She added that the only help the government had offered her was temporary shelter in a gym, which she refused.

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