“We are very happy when customers are satisfied,” say Kim Pong Hun and his wife Jong Chun Hwa who have worked as shoemakers for decades.
The couple who are working at the shoemaker’s in Puchang-dong, Kanggye, Jagang Province, are winning respect from locals.
Kim was a lorry driver previously. As he had spent most of his days driving a lorry, he was inexperienced in mending shoes.
There is a reason why he came to learn shoe repairing.
One day 28 years ago, he was badly hurt in an accident and diagnosed to be unable to drive any more.
A young man in his thirties in full vigour, he abhorred enjoying the state benefits of social security services at home.
“At that time I wanted to do something good for the society, although I could not move my legs. So I was in agony, unable to find a job suitable for me,” recalled Kim.
Once, an old man asked Kim if he had an intention to learn the skill of mending shoes after carefully looking at him struggling to do handwork.
When he failed to answer readily, the old man said that all the works in our country serve the people, adding each occupation is valuable.
The old man was a Merited Shoemaker. So the crippled man found a new way out.
After some days, he began to learn the methods of repairing shoes under the guidance of the senior shoemaker.
His wife Jong Chun Hwa worked together in close cooperation with her husband.
A few months later, a family shoemaker’s was built on a street in the city.
When the couple worked, they would think that they were mending their own shoes.
“Shoe is an article of luxury. We thought that we needed to make shoes to have a profound knowledge of shoe repair. So we visited most of footwear factories and shoemaker’s throughout the country to acquire experience and technology,” said Jong Chun Hwa.
Regular customers to their repair shop increased little by little, but they made exact demands on themselves without being satisfied with their successes.
They finally found out a method after racking their brains to remove the marks of shoes repaired.
As they appliqued various patterns or ornaments after mending the frontal part of shoes and applied an ornamental band to the heel so as to cover up the traces of repair, the public favour grew more and more.
They undertook mobile services for the families of honoured disabled soldiers and war veterans and builders at major construction sites in the city.
“There were some moments of vacillation. Tears filled my eyes by themselves when my son attending a kindergarten found fault with our shoe repair work,” recollected Jong.
The couple, who had long devoted their patriotic mind to the country, received thanks of Chairman Kim Jong Il and was elected as deputies to the Kanggye City People’s Assembly for several terms and chosen as meritorious persons of socialist patriotism.
Whenever they are exhausted, they read the letter their son Kim Song Gyong sent at the post for national defence.
“When I was an innocent child, I hated answering the questions about the occupation of my parents. But now I am proud of my parents who are shoemakers and my mother a people’s deputy…”