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360. Gloomy Outlook Among the Young

Jang, Su-jeong 기자2015.11.24 20:47:19

Every Generation has a term that describe their lives and times. These days, young people in South Korea are called the 'N-Po Generation'. 'N' represents a number that is more than three, and 'Po' is short for Pogi, which means giving up in Korean. It indicates that the young give up many things compared to the past. However, it is not just a problem in Korea, but also in Europe and many advanced countries, including Japan.

 

The N-Po Generation in Korea

           The 'Sam[1]po Generation' was a newly coined word in 2011, which referred to many of the young generation who had given up courtship, marriage, and childbirth. They had unstable jobs, high student loan payments, and long preparation for employment, so they postponed love, marriage, and childbirth without any prospective plan. At first, the number of things given up by many young people was three. However, as time went by, it kept increasing. In 2015, the Number for the N-Po Generation is usually seven, which means the young are giving up finding their jobs, buying their houses, getting along with people, and being hopeful about their future, plus the three things mentioned previously.

           The causes of this problem are complicated, including economic problems and social pressures. Among them, the main issue is getting a job. According to Statistics Korea, the unemployment rate for young people between the ages of 15 and 29 is increasing: 7.4% in 2013, 8.7% in 2014, and 9.3% in May 2015. There are many low-quality jobs for the young: One in five (24.6%) of them experience contract work for less than 1 year. Furthermore, many young people have a high standard of living, because they learned the traditional values of a good life from the older generation who had gone through the miraculous economic development in Korea. Thus, they give up the things mentioned above, thinking their jobs or positions are not good enough for them. Some young people claim they have never had the chance to choose them. It shows their anger more than resignation.

 

The Youth Employment Crisis

           Youth unemployment does occur not only in Korea but also in other developed countries: the "Satori generation" in Japan, the "700-euro Generation" or the "Ikea Generation" in Europe. These expressions are different, but they refer to similar young generations, especially those in a difficult financial situation. The main causes of this problem are high unemployment rates and lots of low-quality jobs coupled with various economic downturns. This is because many full-time jobs have been replaced with part-time ones since the onset of the Global Financial Crisis. This has led to conflict between the older generation and the young. The former want to have welfare benefit, and the latter want to get a job. However, the budget for those policies is limited. In fact, the young have to bear the budget for the welfare policies, so that the older members of society can get retirement benefits. Thus, the ongoing conflict can be hard to solve, and the government has an important role in doing this.

 

The Response of the Korean Government

The N-Po Generation shows that many young people in Korea feel frustrated with Korean society and powerless to live in Korea. The Korean government is seeking ways to reduce unemployment which is thought to be the main cause of this problem. The following are the representative measures that the government has proposed. First, they have tried to increase employment, particularly among women and youths, by increasing the amount of part-time employment and planning to create a total of 930,000 part time jobs by 2017. Second, the budget for supporting startup businesses will increase from 259.3 billion won this year to 298.9 billion won next year. This is the highest growth rate among other general budget items. Eighteen Creative Economy and Innovation Centers were established to provide programs about commercializing business ideas. Third, reforming the labor market will be completed by the end of this year. One of the purposes of the reform is to make more jobs for the young. However, many political scientists and critics remain skeptical about the effectiveness of these policies. They claim those focus on the number of jobs, and not their quality, and there is no concrete plan of action. If lots of poor-quality jobs are created through those policies, it can result in exploitation of young people.

 

Although the term, "N-Po generation" reflects the situation of the young people, some of them do not totally agree with it, because it denies their efforts and justifies their resignation.  The young who give up everything mentioned above are rare, but the word generalizes all the young people. This makes a lot of the young tend to think of themselves as victims with little or no control over their lives. In fact, they are the "future" of their country, and the “subjects” of the problem solving. They should exercise their political rights and demand their rights actively so that the society would not push them to sacrifice their youth.



[1] Sam means three in Korea.

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