PhotoPhoto Essay
POST OFFICE in POST MODERN TIMESPost office in today? digital world
Yoo Sung-jee Reporter  |  tahros@yonsei.ac.kr
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승인 2005.09.01  00:00:00
트위터 페이스북 구글 카카오스토리

ROMEO KILLED himself because he did not receive the letter - or because he did not receive the letter at the right moment. Friar John failed to deliver Juliet's letter - which had the secrets of her disguised death - to Romeo. Contemporary people would argue that if Juliet were to send an SMS (Short Message Service) to Romeo instead of that time-consuming letter, the tragic love story would have had a different ending, even perhaps, a happier one.
Or, would it?

   

▲ Most people assume that postmen
are busy delivering, but actually
    we are mostly busy categorizing.?
                                     - Chief Postman, Seodaemun Post Office

The Digital Era
Nowadays, people don't write letters. Instead, they send an SMS or drop a note or two at the visitor's blog on the Internet. A brief glimpse is all that is required to read the whole message. Having supplanted traditional letters, computers and cellular phones are evermore becoming the prevailing communication media. With the advent of the information era, writing letters is often belittled as an obsolete tradition.

Touches of Humanity
However, unlike modern digital media where writing utensils are compacted into a computer - its mouse, keyboard, and monitor - analog media have infinite diversity. From choosing the material to write on - paper, a note pad, a napkin or even a leaf - to where to write what, analog letters are endowed with unique quality that digital ones do not. Pixels don't convey the heart-evoking feelings of handwriting nor the sense of humanity. On the other hand, a writer's feelings are immersed in every stain, touch, or scent of the paper. Letters absorb the writer's character, making it a sole treasure unique to both the sender and the receiver. After all, the joy of getting a letter in a mail box, not the e-mail account, is a cherished experience.

The Deliverer
Letters take time for delivery unlike SMS or e-mails. As the freshly written letters arrive at the post office, the delivery procedure begins - which constitutes two parts; first categorizing, then delivering. The post office receives mail intermittently from one of the 22 Customs Post Offices (large centers equipped with machines that collect and categorize the mail - which duly gets sent to local post offices) widespread throughout the nation. For instance, Seodaemun Post Office, a common post office in Seoul, situated five minutes from Yonsei Univ., receives 20~30 thousand letters a day.
Each postman then categorizes about 2,000 envelopes. "Most people assume that postmen are busy delivering, but actually we are mostly busy categorizing," comments Park Byoung-ok (Chief Postman at Seodaemun Post Office). Analog it might be and time-consuming for sure, the reasons for such difficulties are systemic. "Automatic machines categorize regulated envelops only, meaning that about 30% still have to be handled manually," adds Jo Yong-sung (Dir. of Dep. of Circulation at Seodaemun Post Office). After categorizing, the delivery begins.

Delivering
The delivery procedure signifies the role of the postman. No matter how digital the milieu gets, face-to-face delivery service still persists, marking the final stage in analog communication. Although the patina of a bicycles' old varnish isn't there to greet the leaping heart anymore, postmen are still striving to meet the best of customers' needs. And to cope with the ever varying digital world, they are now equipped with motorbikes and PDAs. (PDAs allow the clients to keep track of their packages' locations) In one aspect, however, analog methods still prevail - taking the "usual route" (each postman has to make up his usual route every day, according to their mail addresses) has been a part of postmen's lives since the birth of the Post Office.
 "The world has changed and we postmen know it. No one today greets us like the past," sighs Park, "but it's still our duty to provide the general services, for it is our primary goal. The customers are the people that change and motivate the post office." True indeed, but the pregnant question is, do we think so?

SMS vs. Letters

   
Questioning which of the two - an SMS or a letter - is better, is a futile question for each has its own unique diversity. Assume that Romeo received the SMS beforehand, threw away the poison, and managed to get away with his beloved Juliet. A happy story of Romeo and Juliet it would be, but definitely not of the Montague and the Capulet. The notorious hostility entrenched in both families were resolved through sacrifices of the two lovers. Intended or not, the delaying of the letter begot peace for all. If you weigh the love of Romeo and Juliet over the peaceful familial bonds, remember that Juliet should have posted the letter instead of giving it to Friar John - well, that is, if there were any post offices.
Thanks to today's post offices, they are constantly striving to deliver the letters on time and their efforts are paying off. Despite the painstaking workload, postmen still don't hesitate to be the messengers of happiness. Rather than readily exchanging instant feelings of joy and sorrow, why not give yourself time to grab a pen and write a letter?
Oh, and don't forget to post it.

 

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