Sources

Dog Walker, The Man Behind The Canine Wheelchair

Glauber Pereira Souza and one of the dog he took care of
Glauber Pereira Souza and one of the dog he took care of
Fernanda Testa

SERTÃOZINHO — In a simple house here, 330 kilometers northwest of São Paulo in Brazil, Glauber Pereira Souza, 36, is the head of a four-legged family: He owns five dogs, two cats and two rabbits.

The youngest member of his household is Preta, a mongrel female who had been run over by a bus, but miraculously survived. Glauber adopted Preta after her accident. But he did more than that. He made her mobile again by crafting a special wheelchair for her. Petra wasn't the first to benefit from Glauber's care. Glauber's helpful hands have already improved the lives of more than 2,400 dogs across Brazil.

It all began in February 2015, after a friend asked Glauber to help her paralyzed dog. "The poor thing was suffering from advanced-stage canine distemper," Glauber recalls. "It couldn't even move its neck anymore. My friend was desperately looking for a wheelchair so her dog could at least stand on its legs.

Since the wheelchair was working fine, I decided to turn this activity into a gesture of charity for other animals.

Glauber took online tutorials and used the synthetic plastic polymer PVC to make the chair in about 20 days. It was such a success that his grateful friend created a Facebook page for Glauber to showcase his work.

"I've always had that instinct of helping, caring. Since the wheelchair was working fine, I decided to turn this activity into a gesture of charity for other animals. By word of mouth, I've come to make wheelchairs for dogs across the region and country," he says.

Rolling Dalmatian Photo: Assistencia para locomoção de pets em geral Facebook page

Despite being unemployed, Glauber only charges customers the cost of the material. Depending on the size and weight of the animals, it can cost the owner from 20 reais to 190 reais ($6 to $60), while those available in shops usually cost at least 450 reais ($140).

Glauber now makes four to five wheelchairs a day. Even veterinarians recommend him to their patients. Although Glauber loves to make dog-owners happy, it's the reactions of the dogs themselves that motivates him the most.

"All the ones I attend to in person come and lick me whenever they see me. It's as if they wanted to thank me for my help," he says.

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Society

Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum

-Analysis-

SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.


It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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