Lack of upward mobilityOne out of two Koreans across all ages were pessimistic about the social mobility of the young people in Korea as of last year. A decade ago, three out of 10 gave the same answer to the question. The recent 2016 social trend report released by the Statistics Korea underscored the reality behind the young people’s satirical talk of Hell Joseon and dirt spoons because unless they are born rich and well connected, they cannot go anywhere after graduation. Six out of 10 people in their 30s believed their children won’t be able to move up in the social ladder no matter how hard they try and may live worse off than their parents.
The older generation, especially those in government, remains oblivious to this growing pessimism. In President Park Geun-hye’s Liberation Day Address, she said that self-pity, pessimism, distrust, and hatred get in the way of changes and development. The president’s out-of-touch perception of reality is what really triggered the candlelight vigils on the streets.
While policymakers neglected to tend to the problems of society, the young have lost hope due to extreme scarcity and imbalance in the job market while older people fear for the future as they struggle under debt to finance costly private tuition and housing rents.
Young people should be able to find jobs and work in order to climb the social ladder. Only then will they would feel secure enough to build a family, have children, buy a house and plan for retirement. The National Assembly must immediately get on with reviewing and approving bills designed to reform the labor market and accelerate corporate restructuring. But the legislative is in a deadlock.
The young are getting restless and helpless, faced with an unemployment rate of 10 percent. Their parents spent all their income and savings to educate them, and find themselves fretting about their own future with their children without a decent job and income and little left in their savings. The government should take the data seriously and do their best to restore social mobility to plant hope for the people.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 13, Page 30