Friday, June 16, 2023

"Meet the typical South Korean millennial: educated, overqualified for the job market, and part of the 'kangaroo tribe' that can't afford to leave their parents' homes"

From Business Insider, June 11:

  • Almost 70% of South Korea's millennials have college degrees.
  • But they're overqualified for the labor market, resulting in a high unemployment rate.
  • Known as the "kangaroo tribe," many still live with their parents because of high housing costs.
At 28, Kwon Joonyeop is the kind of guy most Korean teenagers want to become.

Kwon graduated in 2022 from Yonsei University, a top college where he swam on the varsity team and earned a double degree in physical education and public administration. He lives in Gangnam — Seoul's glitzy city center — in a four-room apartment that his family has owned for generations.

He works as a data analyst at a multinational tech firm, in a country where stable, white-collar jobs are glorified as the key to a good life. On weekends, he wins swimming competitions and is set to represent Seoul in under-30 tournaments.

But like most young and unmarried South Koreans, he lives with his parents, and despite earning more than the national average, he won't even consider buying his own home for the next 10 years. If he saves enough, maybe he can afford a car by then, he said.

"It feels a bit hopeless, like we are the damned ones," Kwon said.

Hong Seo-yoon, 36, manages a nonprofit for disabled rights in Korea and runs advocacy classes at Seoul National University in her spare time for around $3,700 a month. She's worked as an anchor at the Korean Broadcasting System and as the founder of multiple NGOs. Hong, who uses a wheelchair, also sits on the board of several Korean nonprofits for disability access.

She spent her life savings and took out a hefty loan to buy her first home in Seoul — a 600-square-foot apartment built 30 years ago — for $300,000 in 2019. Now, though, with her current salary and mortgage interest piling up, Hong told Insider she's worried about her financial future.

Kwon and Hong belong to Generation MZ, a collective term for South Korea's millennials and Gen Zers, who often get grouped together for their digital fluency and outlook on life.

Generation MZ — anyone born between 1980 and 2005 — accounts for almost a third of the country's population of around 52 million people.

It makes up Korea's most educated generation and is the country's first youth generation known for speaking up about social issues and the climate.

Generation MZ is also characterized by intense financial anxiety, as young Koreans like Hong and Kwon see their life goals drifting further away while housing, transportation, and education prices reach record highs.

Insider spoke with five South Koreans of Generation MZ, as well as finance and generational experts, to gain a better understanding of the generation. 

Known as the "kangaroo tribe," most young, unmarried South Koreans still live with their parents due to increasingly unaffordable housing.

Only 12.7% of Generation MZ singles and 36.6% MZ married couples are homeowners, according to data from Statistics Korea, the government Census agency....


That does not sound like one of the Asian Tigers. But it does sound like this post from 2020:

 Following up on the post immediately below, "Toyota to build 'city of the future' at the base of Mount Fuji"

First up, from CityLab, June 22, 2018:

Sleepy in Songdo, Korea’s Smartest City

Three years ago, 35-year-old Lee Mi-Jung followed her husband from the small coastal city of Pohang, best known for its steel industry and fish market, across the South Korean peninsula to Songdo. Billed as the world’s “smartest city,” it promised her all kinds of conveniences: an efficient trash system, an abundance of parks, as well as a vibrant international community—all wrapped in a walkable, sensor-laden showpiece of 21st century urban design.

“I’d [imagined] this would be a well-designed city, that it would be new, modernized, and simple—unlike other cities,” says Lee, who used to work as an English teacher. “So my expectations were high.”

While there are no holograms or robot butlers, Lee says that as far as futuristic conveniences go, Songdo does deliver. Pneumatic tubes send trash straight from her home to an underground waste facility, where it’s sorted, recycled, or burned for energy generation; garbage—and garbage trucks—are virtually nonexistent. Everything from the lights to the temperature in her apartment can be adjusted via a central control panel or from her phone. During the winter, she can warm up the apartment before heading home.

As for that vibrant community? That’s been harder to find.

“When I first came here during the winter,” Lee says, “I felt something cold.” She wasn’t just talking about the weather, or the chilly modernism of the concrete high rises that have sprung up all over town over the last decade. She felt a lack of human warmth from neighborhood interaction. “There’s an internet cafe (online forum) where we share our complaints,” she said, “But only on the internet—not face to face.”

The Songdo International Business District, as it’s formally known, was built from scratch, on reclaimed land from the Yellow Sea. The 1,500-acre development sits an hour outside of Seoul and is officially part of the city of Incheon, whose proximity to the international airport and the sea makes it both a transportation hub and the gateway to Korea.
It’s the heart of the greater Songdo city, and from its conception in 2001, the IBD was envisioned as a sustainable, low-carbon, and high-tech utopia. For Koreans, the city would have all the perks of Seoul—and more—but without the capital city’s air pollution, crowded sidewalks, and choking automotive traffic. And for foreign corporations looking for access to Asian economies, Songdo as a whole would be a glitzy business capital to rival Hong Kong and Shanghai. “The city aims to do nothing less than banish the problems created by modern urban life,” as one 2009 story declared.

To accomplish that, Songdo’s buildings and streets bristle with sensors that monitor everything from energy use to traffic flow, all with an eye toward sustainability.... 


And from the Asia Times, although not directly mentioning Songdo, reflecting a larger angst/apprehension about this very forward-thinking society:

75% of young want to escape South Korean ‘Hell’
From afar, South Koreans might appear to be blessed among East Asians....


And no, I don't think I am conflating a generalized feeling of unease with the technology angle.
South Korea is technology, from the world's fastest broadband speeds to mass produced lithium-ion batteries to world class Samsung phones.
So what you have is a little laboratory at the confluence of a homogeneous population/society and the tech woven into the warp-and-woof of that population.
And the kids want out.