[Viewpoint] The agony of the ‘P Generation’

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[Viewpoint] The agony of the ‘P Generation’

“Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait,” is a French expression that means the youth have strength but no wisdom, while the old have wisdom but no strength. It’s also translated into an English expression, “If youth but knew; if old age but could.”

Different from knowledge, wisdom requires accumulated experience and years. But youth can still earn wisdom through reading. Many young people have chosen the path of wisdom and youthfulness has become a fever in the book community. Self-help books for young people are ranked at top on best-seller lists.

What are the characteristics of members of the young generation who are seeking wisdom in books?

They are called the “P Generation,” defined by patriotism, pleasant, power, peace, pragmatism and personality. The Cheonan sinking was a key emotional experience for them.

Cheil Worldwide, one of the country’s largest advertising and marketing agencies, first presented the concept of the P Generation in 2003. Participation, passion, potential power and paradigm-shifter are the terms that define their characteristics.

The books have become best sellers perhaps because they include contents that the young generation can relate to. Based on the books’ contents, the P Generation can also be defined as the “U Generation.” The U Generation is unemployed, undetermined about what to do with their lives, uninformed about what they want to do and unprepared, thus unhappy.

It’s not their fault, however. The U Generation has behaved and listened to their parents’ advice to become elite members of society. Korea has 3,600 different kinds of college admission and the U Generation managed to find ways to enter universities despite the complexity of the system. They also worked hard to build up their resumes while attending school.

And yet, the youth unemployment rate is up to 9 percent and companies often reject applicants despite their struggles. There was even a report that more and more Koreans in their 20s and 30s are now losing their hair because of stress and sleep deprivation.

For the U Generation, the books are giving hopeful messages to cheer them, while providing helpful tips as well as painful, but important advice.

“You should fail miserably every day,” said Lee Ji-seong, author of “20s, you should never give up.” Kim Nan-do, Seoul National University professor and author of “You feel pain, because you are young.” said “Make fabulous mistakes, mistakes are assets.” The authors remind readers that young people should embrace every part of youthfulness.

There is, however, one thing that I feel uncomfortable about. In his book, Lee wrote, “You must never expect Korea to change.”

The expectation that Korea will change - and the possibility to see a change - should be seen in the political arena ahead of the legislative elections in April next year and the presidential election in December next year.

Politicians must come up with policies that can satisfy every generation.

Some even argue that a law should be established to prevent presidential candidates from making campaign pledges about massive state-run projects that often end up not coming true.

Until now, the pledges of large-scale construction projects were made to each region to win votes. Presenting tailor-made policies for each generation, therefore, would be the most feasible way to replace the pledges of state projects.

“The youngsters, who are called the P Generation or G-20 Generation, are expressing their love for the country in genuine, pragmatic and politically-neutral ways,” President Lee Myung-bak said last week.

Voters can be grouped by social class, income level, occupation, education level, religion and region as well as generation. The era of regionalism is fading in Korea. The P Generation can no longer be defined by the right and the left. For them, we need new policies and new pledges.

*The writer is the social affairs editor of the JoongAng Sunday.


By Kim Whan-yung
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