The Dong-A Ilbo has published “Kkondae in the Eyes of the Younger Generation,” a special report that celebrates its 100th anniversary. The report includes interviews with young people who made a desperate attempt to make their voices heard. The younger generation is constantly frustrated by challenges thrown by the elder generation who hold tight to their privilege – Rigged university admission as seen in the Cho Kuk scandal, the passing down of public jobs and the death of a young part-timer are just a few to name. Tired of playing by the rules set by the older generation, young people are now demanding that the older generation become responsible adults.
For the past 30 years since the 1987 democracy movement of the nation, South Korea’s democracy has come a long way. However, it is now faced with rising social and economic inequality. The older generation has secured their places in the labor, education and real estate markets, leaving few opportunities for the younger generation to climb the ladder. Increasingly realizing there is no future for them, young people have been protesting in silence by resisting getting married and having children. As a result, the accumulated birth rate for 2019 fell below one and the country’s population is expected to start to dwindle in 10 years.
In order to avoid the downward spiral where the economy stagnates and the gap intensifies, the younger generation should take the helm of political, economic and social reforms. Those who drove the industrialization or democratization cannot keep up with the changing demands of the time. Challenges presented by artificial intelligence, big data and diversifying society cannot be met by those whose problem was a lack of food or who choose to buck global trends embroiled in partisan interest.
Fortunately, things are changing in business. An increasing number of companies are hiring competent young people who can “change the game” with a new mindset in the ever-changing global environment. Last year saw those in their 30s become executive and sitting executives in their 40s get a promotion more than ever.
Unfortunately, this is still not the case in political circles. The National Assembly barely represents the demographics. The average age of members of the National Assembly is 55 while the average age of the Korean population is 41, and their fortune (4.1 billion won) is 12 times more on average than the public (340 million won). This is why both the ruling party which is calling for a change in power and the opposition party that is failing to suggest alternatives are not good enough. To improve the representation of the younger generation in politics, more young people should be elected in the upcoming general elections. Otherwise, young people’s lives will remain unchanged.
2020 should be a year where the older generation loses its tight grip on power and let the younger generation design their own future. It does not make sense that inequality is rising when society is run by those who demanded “democracy” and “equality.” The 386 generation, who are now in their 50s, should take a step back for Millennials just as those who led industrialization did for them.