Huh Whan-hwae, the chief repairman shares the history of Ewha
Huh Whan-hwae, the chief repairman shares the history of Ewha
  • Lee Jae-lim
  • 승인 2016.03.28 11:05
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On the first floor of Helen Hall, there is a small shoe repair shop with a long history. Back in the old days, the owner of the shop was famous among Ewha students for his skills for repairing high-heeled shoes. With one sharp look, he could identify what needed to be done to repair the damaged shoes.
Huh Whan-hwae, 60 years old, has kept his dainty shop since 1990. He has been repairing shoes  at Ewha for more than 40 years, including the time that he spent outside the school in a shoe repair shop as an apprentice and the time he owned a shop called “Ewha-sa.” According to Huh, when he first started his own shop in 1990, students lined up at the door of the shop to repair their heels.
“You may think that I am vain, but it is true that I am very proud of my skills in shoe repairing,” Huh said with a slight smile. “Why else would alumni, and even outsiders, continue to come to my shop even though they don’t live nearby?”
As if to prove his point, an old lady and her granddaughter appeared in front of the shoe shop and asked him to repair a pair of high heels. It just happened that the owner of the shoes was her daughter, a professor at Ewha.
The grandmother and her granddaughter decided to wait at the shop and talked about the olden times when students enjoyed wearing high heels and skirts instead of pants and sneakers.
“I can assure you that this man repairs heels better than any other repairmen,” said the grandmother.
The radio, which was quietly buzzing in the background, was brought to the shop only two years ago as Huh now has some time to spare. Back in the old days, he was too busy to do anything else.
“Since the work constantly kept me busy, I set one rule of the shop: no talking in the shop,” Huh said. “Courtesy was not of great importance to me as there was a lot of work that needed to be done. I simply needed to concentrate on fixing heels, and too many people were coming in and out the shop, which prompted me to establish this rule for the shop.”
Even while interviewing, several clients including Ewha students, faculty and outsiders came to ask for repairs. The majority of the customers seemed to put their entire trust on Huh. They would ask him to repair their heels or a specific part of their shoes, but when Huh pointed out other parts that needed repairs, they all replied to him, “Please, do whatever you can to repair the shoes.”
There is a reason why Huh has been able to remain as a part of the Ewha community for so long. For one thing, he has never taken a proper vacation ever since he opened his shop on campus. He has always been there, day and night, year around, available for alumni and students to visit.
“How could I, when I know that students from old days come a long way just to get their shoes repaired here?” Huh said. “What if they were to come after a long delay and find that I’m not here? This is a matter of trust, you see.”
He proudly showed all his connections with Ewha alumni since 1977, saying that he has several hundred mobile numbers.
“I save all the numbers of alumni who often come to the shop, and have the shop phone connected with my cell phone so that I know who is calling,” Huh said.
In the past, he only repaired shoes, but now he repairs bags and makes keys as well, due to the decreasing number of students  who come for shoe repairs. Nevertheless, his business remains steady and constant.
“I will always be here as long as I am needed,” he said, “Because this is my pride, my significant work that the students and graduates trust.”

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