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365. The Youth Cry for Jobs!

Jang, Su-jeong 기자2017.03.02 20:30:20

Newly coined words can be good mirrors of society. For instance, Spec, which came from job specification, has been on everyone’s lips since the mid-2000s. This term includes educational background, GPA, TOEIC score, and many experiences such as studying abroad, volunteering, winning contests and working as an intern. This indicates that it has become harder for young people to find jobs after graduation. Since many of them use social media, we can easily encounter neologisms every year, reflecting the difficulty of getting jobs, as well as unfair labor practices.

 

In 2014, youth unemployment became a social issue, and various newly coined words drew public attention. Jasoseol, which means fictional cover letter, has been in generally use. More and more enterprises have subdivided job application formats into several categories, and have required ‘unique stories’. This has made job seekers suffer from a lot of pressure, so they have sugarcoated their cover letters by overstating the facts. Yeoljeong-pay (Passion wages) has also become famous. This refers to the practice in which interns and trainees are often paid less than the minimum wages or even paid nothing. Some companies justified their unjust labor practice by saying that they satisfied their interns’ passion for work and gave the interns some training to build their career, though this intern hunger only fed the corporates.

 

For two years in a row (2014-2015), two words have indicated that liberal arts degree-holders experience more difficulty in finding jobs than others in fields such as natural sciences or engineering. Mun-songhapnida is short for “I’m sorry to major in liberal arts.”, and it is used when liberal arts graduates feel that they are not welcomed in society. This self-deprecating expression is similar to In-gu-ron, which signifies, “90 percent of graduates with Humanities degrees are jobless.” In addition, Gold Spoon and Dirt Spoon (Spoon Class Theory) became buzzwords in 2015. These imply that meritocracy will not happen, and vertical mobility is impossible because of inherited wealth, which denies the possibility of success through effort. These were selected by job seekers as the most unpleasant words in 2015.

 

The pressure of being a senior student is so big that even juniors and sophomores can be under considerable stress. In 2016, some junior students called themselves Samang-nyeon, and some sophomores had Dae-yi-Byeong (sophomore syndrome). Samang-nyeon is a phonetic spelling of Samhaknyeon, which means a junior in Korean, and samang means death. This is because junior students have a hard time trying to acquire specs, which is compared to death. Dae-yi-Byeong depicts sophomores who are worried about their future, get stressed out from getting a good GPA and feel lost in their lives. Furthermore, the word Homo Interns signifies that some job seekers have no choice but to continue internship because it is not easy to get a full-time job even though they have good specs.

 

There are sufficient reasons for young job seekers to make these kinds of words. According to Statistics Korea, the unemployment rate has been climbing steadily, reaching 9.8 percent in 2016, the highest since statistical research began in 2000. The report also showed that the overall conditions of employment were the worst since the 1997-98 Korean Financial Crisis. This led to unemployment of the educated youth, and many young job seekers have demanded proper youth policies. Many policy makers and the mass media did not pay attention to them until the Seoul Metropolitan Government planned to give a monthly allowance (500,000 won) to unemployed youth. Many experts said this could help to prevent the young people from being socially isolated and from giving up seeking for jobs. However, this project has intensified conflicts with the Central Government which is against the policy. Kim, Moo-sung, the Saenuri Party chairperson, dismissed it as populism, saying that it will ruin our country. Lee, In-je, the Saenuri Party supreme representative, also condemns this policy as an opium which will spoil the spirit of youth.

 

As many people are coming to realize the seriousness of youth unemployment, the negative impression about youth policy has been slowly changing. The Central Government, as well as many Metropolitan Governments, are now establishing youth policies. In one of these, the Daegu Metropolitan Government created a new department named ‘Youth Policy Division’ under the slogan ‘Youth Magnet City’ in the beginning of 2017. This is because the net population outflow of the young aged 20 to 39 from Daegu to other cities was about 5,300 in 2016, which is the third largest among the metropolitan cities, and because its unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2016 (14.4%) was the nation's highest. The new department will give the young information about jobs, support business starters, communicate with the young, and help to create a new youth culture. It said that youth startup is the solution to lower the youth unemployment rate. It also plans to expand the infrastructure for startups and support promoting the businesses of young entrepreneurs, through the Daegu-Samsung Creative Economy Complex, which opens in March. However, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of these policies, most of which are similar to existing ones. For example, the employment policy is planed to give money to the corporations, rather than support the young directly, which is not a fundamental solution to the problem.

 

Although some people take hardships for granted when young, this does not describe the current situation. As the job market becomes more competitive due to economic stagnation, many job seekers have trouble in getting good quality jobs, and they express their feeling by using self-mocking words. There are many so-called ‘healing’ books, counselings, and mobile applications for the young to console themselves. However what can really heal them is both changes in the social perceptions towards them and practical policies which reflect their needs. Let us hope that positive words will be coined in 2017.

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