Young South Koreans call their country ‘hell’ and look for ways out | The Washington Post

Don’t be fooled by the bright lights, the zingy K-pop music, the ubiquitous technology. South Korea is, in the minds of many young people here, a living hell — and they’re not going to take it anymore.

It’s a place where, according to a growing number of 20- and 30-somethings, those born with a “golden spoon” in their mouths get into the best universities and secure the plum jobs, while those born with a “dirt spoon” work long hours in low-paying jobs without benefits.

This Korea even has a special name: “Hell Joseon,” a phrase that harks back to the five-century-long Joseon dynasty in which Confucian hierarchies became entrenched in Korea and when a feudal system determined who got ahead and who didn’t.

“It’s hard to imagine myself getting married and having kids. There is no answer or future for us,” says Hwang Min-joo, a 26-year-old writer for television shows.

Hwang often goes to work on a Monday morning with her suitcase, not leaving again until Thursday night. She eats at her office, takes a shower at her office, sleeps in bunk beds at her office. “If I finish work at 9 p.m., that’s a short day,” she said.

Paychecks come irregularly — or not at all, if the show gets axed — and because she doesn’t have a contract, Hwang wonders when she goes to sleep each night whether she’ll still have a job in the morning. She can make this life work only by living at home with her parents — when she goes home, that is.

“If you have enough money, South Korea is a great place to live. But if you don’t . . .” she trails off.


  • What are the challenges faced by the (young) people in your country/hometown/city?
  • Why has this come about?
  • How can these problems be solved?
  • What is your vision of an ideal world?

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