When the young say goodbye

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When the young say goodbye

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In late January, the Washington Post reported that young Koreans call their country “hell” and look for escape. The article discussed the infinite competition and struggles of Korean youth.

But some readers wrote comments on the article that the situation in the United States is similar, if not worse, and U.S. workers get even less benefits.

They are not exaggerating. Youth unemployment in the United States is 10.4 percent, and 60 percent of the people under age 30 are not fully employed. The official statistics showing the decline of unemployment are not relevant to them. Many young Americans have difficulty finding a job and live with their parents to pay off student loans. Their discontent and frustration with reality are deepening. The boom of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders and the popularity of Republican candidate Donald Trump are based on the support of dissatisfied young voters.

According to the Washington Post article, online forums advise young people to escape from the hell and offer to help apply to the U.S. military as a “fast track” to U.S. citizenship. In fact, a military recruiting center near Los Angeles gets many inquiries from Korean students. JTBC reported that the number of Koreans joining the U.S. military is increasing. Last year, 250 Koreans joined the U.S. military, and more than 200 are enlisting in the first half of 2016. They are the largest group among Asians.

It is narrow-minded to think that they want to evade mandatory military duty in Korea. Many are in their early 30s and have completed the military service in Korea. And 30 percent are women. As is widely known, the United States offer scholarships and living subsidies to service members. But the monetary benefits are not the only appeal. Those who serve in the U.S. military are known to obtain U.S. citizenship within six months. They can acquire legal status to work in the United States.

Young Koreans considering joining the U.S. military say that they don’t see a stable future in Korea upon graduating from college.
The older generation may feel bitter seeing young people joining a foreign military. However, the reality in Korea is so harsh that they cannot be blamed for giving up their nationality. Korea’s youth unemployment rate, 11.8 percent, is already higher than that of the United States. Three in 10 young workers have irregular jobs and are concerned about job stability.

Now that the general election is over, Korea’s political clock is ticking towards the presidential election. Politicians need to prioritize giving jobs and hopes to young people over presidential ambitions. When young people leave, society has no future.
The author is a New York correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 23, Page 26

LEE SANG-RYEOL

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