What sparked the London riotsThe youth riots that grew from the streets in London have spread throughout the U.K. Last weekend, the entire country fell into a state of emergency as the riots spread from Tottenham to Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol and other major cities.
Prime Minister David Cameron ended up cutting his summer vacation short and held an emergency conference yesterday. The situation sounds strangely familiar.
The spark that started the fire was a protest held after a young black man living in Tottenham was shot and killed by a police officer. Now the fire has grown too big to put out, with young people looting stores after conspiring online via Twitter and other social networking services.
Cars have been set on fire and these deeds have led to clashes with police who have tried to stop them. Many have been wounded and many more arrested.
The British media has focused on the fact that while the riots broke out in an area mostly populated by black people, they are now strongly influenced by poor white youth, indicating an eruption of the discontent and anger that have built up.
More specifically, the younger generation with low incomes was hit directly by rising unemployment rates and a lower welfare budget that was the result of a government trying to tighten its belt.
Against the backdrop of the riots lie the tight fiscal policies of European countries facing financial crises and soaring unemployment rates ranging from 20 to 30 percent. Children of immigrants who live on the outskirts of big cities are especially affected by unemployment. But it is not easy to create new jobs at this time. As a result, a dangerous situation has been created where explosions can happen if a fire is set.
We cannot compare the U.K.’s situation with ours, but we cannot be at rest either. The unemployment rate in Korea is fairly low at 7.3 percent, but this number does not include those who have altogether given up finding employment, those serving mandatory military service, those studying in universities or those preparing to become employed.
The actual hiring rate of young people is 40.3 percent, which is one of the lowest among OECD member countries.
This is the reason we cannot neglect the complaints of the “880,000 won generation,” whose members live their lives with a string of part-time jobs and have little choice but to cling to high-interest loans from private lenders.