The Huh generation’s distress
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Generation Z refers to the people born from the mid-1990s to early 2000s. If the preceding millennials alternated between analog and digital, Gen Z has only known the digital world. They can be called the “Huh Kyung-young generation” in a political sense. In 2007, when they were elementary and middle school students, Huh ran for president — and over and over. They were too young to vote at the time, but were amused by the perennial presidential candidate who claimed to have the magical power of levitation and shortening distance. Children sang his campaign song and treated the election like a game.
Huh also played a role of a “bridge” between Gen Z and their parents’ generation. Their parents listened to too much of the “Saemaeul Movement Song” written and composed by President Park Chung Hee, and the song was sung again by their children. Only the lyric has changed to “Getting 30 million won ($26,605) if you have a child,” as Huh promised in the campaign. Yet their analog parents and their digital children have finally reached some sort of a consensus.
Huh’s phone number was shared among students, and some playful ones actually called. One middle school student asked Huh what he should do to do well in school. He said, “Shout out my name ‘Huh Kyung-young’ three times!” His prescription was far from the obvious advice such as study in advance and review. He gave the experience that a politician can make people laugh.
Not much will be different after the election. The boastful claims of Huh, who claimed a 430 IQ, became a trend in politics. The most notable was the first beer meeting at the Blue House on July 27, 2017, shortly after the Moon administration launched. At the meeting attended by LG Group Vice Chairman Koo Bon-joon and Shinsegae Group Vice Chairman Chung Yong-jin, President Moon said, “I’ll treat you to pizza if our real estate prices get under control.” In reaction, Fair Trade Commissioner Kim Sang-jo said, “Not just pizza but fried chicken too.”
It’s not likely that we get to have free pizza in this administration. The person who asked for fried chicken became the Blue House policy advisor later. Kim initiated a policy not to raise lease deposit by a large margin, but two days before the enforcement, he raised the deposit from his tenant by the price of 10,000 chickens. When that was revealed after eight months, he stepped down quickly. The opposition party is not different. For the Busan mayoral by-election, the PPP came up with a plan to dig an undersea tunnel to Japan.
While politicians focus on boasting, the Huh generation has to rely on cash payouts in real life. The number of job seekers reached a record high. In February, unemployment payments were over 1 trillion won. Some people are repeating the pattern of working for six months and getting unemployment checks. German statesman Bismarck said he had three words for the youth, “Work, work, work.” During the Park Geun-hye administration, the Youth Commission directly under the president put this saying on a board.
In the Moon Jae-in administration, the Youth Commission was replaced by the Job Creation Commission. On the website, it states that the president reviews the employment status every day. But unfortunately, there are only red lights on all unemployment indicators.
They may be the ones who resent Covid-19 the most. They got into college but there was no entrance ceremony. They never had a class outing.
Which candidate will they vote for in the election? Both Park Young-sun and Oh Se-hoon are busy exchanging insults for the land in Naegok-dong and an apartment in Tokyo. I am not sure they really know about the agony of Gen Z.
When Gen Z first emerged, they were spotlighted as the protagonists of the new world. Once they started using mobile phones, smartphones were introduced.
We must break a reality in which the protagonists to display their creativities became the recipient of unemployment benefit and welfare handouts.