Implications: Society’s demand for the youth to be both entrepreneurially resourceful and deferential to the public interest may exacerbate discontent among this cohort. The government has encouraged the youth to build digital tools that alert users on outbreaks and the availability of protective equipment, but simultaneously discouraged innovators from taking advantage of their skills to gain access to scarce resources. During the first few months of the pandemic, the Moon administration applauded the younger generation’s altruistic application of innovation for social good. However, as youths have increasingly used these digital tools to gain access to vaccines ahead of the elderly, public officials have placed restrictions on people under the age of 60 from adding their names to vaccine waitlists.
Context: Korea’s younger generations are increasingly expressing frustration with diminishing opportunities in society and the perceived prioritization of older citizens in the country’s welfare policies. Joblessness among the youth has persisted during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the combined unemployment and underemployment rate hovering at over 25% in 2020. Young Koreans in their 20s and 30s especially faced large barriers as companies reduced the number of new hires throughout 2020. This frustration recently manifested in a criticism of the long-standing policy of riders over the age of 65 receiving free subway rides. Younger riders claim they are unfairly shouldering the cost of older riders through taxes in addition to paying for their own ride. From the youth’s perspective, the challenges placed on their well-being contradict society’s simultaneous demand for entrepreneurship.
This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.
Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Sean Blanco, Marina Dickson, and Jina Park. Picture from the flickr account of Michael Simon