The frog can’t remember the time when he was a tadpole (개구리 올챙이 적 생각도 못 한다), a Korean Proverb
The growth of South Korea after the Korean war was meteoric – Samsung, Hyundai and LG are now household names around the world – this success was achieved on the back of the hard working classes of Korea – just like Japanese, generations of Koreans knew nothing outside being loyal and dedicated to the success of the company they work for.
Cart (2014) is a soul-stirring story of one such group of workers – a group of ladies working in a large supermarket “The Mart” who fight back for their rights after getting unethically dismissed and replaced with temporary workers. Korean Director Boo Ji-young, had researched and based this story on a true life incident that happened in 2007 in the town of Homever, where dismissed workers of a supermarket chain owned by E-Land Group went on a strike for 512 days.
The film starts with the assembled employees chanting the company’s mission statement before they begin their day, immediately you get the prevailing work culture in the company, of one that puts at any cost the shareholders’ interest over the employees. In the next scene, we see the humiliation of a lady clerk being cornered to apologise to a customer who was suspected of taking out a product that was not billed – the lady customer asks her son to demand the clerk to get down on her knees and apologise. Throughout the film, we unmistakenly see the priggishness of the men over their women staff.
The film does have it’s lighter moments, like the bonding the workers make during their first days of the sit-in strike, or when an elderly worker comments the soup made by her junior colleague to be “so-so” and the recital made by a cute little boy of one of the clerks.
The climax is not the glamorised version we are used to seeing from Hollywood, instead, it ends resembling the true story that actually happened.
Beware, next time you visit a supermarket, you will be seeing the “poor” clerk behind the cash counter a whole lot different.
“You can understand (how sexist) a company by the fact it orders the lipstick colour of its female employees” – a quote from the film
Available on Netflix India.
Also published on Medium.