Located in Gamgodang-gil, Jongno, the Heartwarming Mailbox is a mailbox that receives anonymous letters. It was installed by HyunSik Jo (Hanyang University DIS, Senior) after he was inspired by the book Miracles of the Namiya General Store written by Keigo Higashino. Since it was installed, hundreds of letters have gone through the mailbox. The Heartwarming Mailbox is managed by the Heartwarming General Store (온기잡화점), where there are sixty other workers. Anyone with worries can send a letter to the mail box. However, the letter must remain anonymous. Because handwriting a letter is inconvenient and time-consuming HyunSik found value in slowness. He says that “people can truly put their heart into the letter because they take their time.” He hopes for the incoming and outgoing letters to be filled with warmth.
In November of 2016, Jo happened to read the book Miracles of the Namiya General Store by chance. In the book, a character from the past writes his worries in a letter and sends it to a character in the future. Then the character in the future replies to the letter. Jo claims, “People have numerous relationships, but there are many who cannot share their problems. Everyone has at least one concern that they cannot share with their friends. I thought if a person shares his problem anonymously, he could share his entire story”. It was one of Jo’s values, to live a life that helps someone, that made him to create this mailbox. “My grandmother who raised me passed away after suffering from a disease. I realized that life is finite so I pondered a lot about how I was to live life meaningfully.” He felt that a life filled with competition and greed was meaningless. He hoped for people to laugh once more throughout their lives. In that sense, he thought the mailbox would be a comfort to someone and eventually deliver happiness to people. Immediately he put his plans into action and recruited ten workers through an online community website. However, the number of letters exceeded all expectations so he recruited additional workers. There were even cases when people approached him first, after reading his story in an article, to volunteer as workers. Currently, there are more than sixty workers with their ages ranging from 20 to 50. When asked about what kind of characteristics a worker should have, he answered that nothing was required. He only needed people who yearn to deliver comfort to those in need.
The letters inside the mailbox are collected every Saturday. The workers are divided into four groups (15 workers per group) and they gather in a café near Ehwa Womens University to write their replies. They go through the letters and respond to the ones with the problems they themselves have experienced. If there are letters with difficult problems, the workers discuss the answers together and they even attach excerpts taken from books. Since Jo’s life has not been so smooth, he was able to give appropriate advice. At the beginning of his twenties, he felt a sense of loss to live a life that seemed to be already set for him. In order to gain experience, he took time off the university and travelled, volunteered, sold accessories and ice cream on the street. He says that “I once read in a book that selling something will be a good experience. I went through hardships and was even once beat up. However, after enduring that I gained the confidence that I could do anything. Therefore, when I receive letters in which the reader is confused about the direction of life, I reply saying that I have also been lost but there are numerous ways in life. So I tell them not to be impatient when things do not work according to their plans.”