1955, born in Seoul. Korea Bangkok resident since 1994 Solo Exhibitions Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (2006. 8.1 ~ 9. 30) Gallery F-Stop (2006. 8. 1 ~ 8. 31) Boka Gallery, Bangkok (2009. 9)
70 Rai - Bangkok
A Family Neighborhood
Photographs by Yoonki Kim
In the heart of Klong Toey, Bangkok’s largest slum community, you’ll find a neighborhood called “70 Rai.” Just next to Bangkok’s busy port, 70 Rai has an unsavory reputation, mostly to do with drugs and violence.
But you should ignore its notoriety and come visit 70 Rai yourself some day. When you do, you will see a traditional Thai neighborhood, much like rural Thai villages, with community leaders setting the tone of each neighborhood on blaring loudspeakers; families going about the business of celebrating life; and lots and lots of kids in the streets doing kid-like things. The parents here are the day laborers who carry goods to and from the port and the food vendors and scrap collectors who fill all of Bangkok’s streets. Subsistence living is the norm here. Parents work mighty hard for the sake of their children and just barely get by.
70 Rai is a holy place, too, with many houses of worship. There are temples and mosques here. A sacred grove full of temple relics lies just a few hundred meters down the road. A vibrant Catholic community can be found just beyond the bend, beside the slaughterhouse, where I worked many years in their church as their Parish Priest.
Perhaps what defines 70 Rai with greater clarity than anything else – more clearly than the temples and mosques, the danger, the fear, or the poverty - are the many grandmothers who live here, the proud matriarchs who support large extended families and who maintain the spirit and joy and holiness of our neighborhood. These grandmothers may chew more than their fair share of beetle nut; they may be tough as nails when they have to be; they may work long, arduous hours every day at the most menial chores; but somehow they also find time to hug their grandchildren and even spoil them with their love.
To support the matriarchs of 70 Rai, we have a long-standing Slum Women’s Group & Credit Union operating at our foundation. The credit union helps keep these women out of debt to neighborhood loan sharks, which helps keep their struggles in life more manageable and gives them a little more time to bake candy for their grandchildren.
For several months photographer Yoonki Kim joined one of our social workers, Ms. Saisunan Tomyin, on visits to our Women’s Group members.
Most photographers look at the dark side of the slums, but Yoonki sees something different. He looks at 70 Rai through the eyes of our grandmothers and grandchildren, our teachers, our Monks, Imams and Priests, our food vendors and our noodle shop ladies: He sees 70 Rai as we do - as a vibrant family neighborhood, full of life, full of hope, full of love.
Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
Human Development Foundation
Klong Toey, Bangkok
July 12, 2006