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[Opinion] Yi Tae Baek

Posted December. 12, 2003 23:33,   


Taebaek is a pseudonym of Yi Baek, a great poet of the Tang dynasty. Another master poet, Dubo, complimented highly of Yi Taebaek, saying, “As his stroke moves on, the wind and rain becomes surprised, and as his poem is completed, a ghost weeps.” Man of letters during Tang dynasty, Han Yu, said, “The light shining from the poetry of Yi Baek and Dubo stretched more than 10,000 miles.” Yi Taebaek was later revered as a holy mountain spirit by his descendents, but his real life was unfortunate. He dreamed of being famous and twice entered public office, but each time it ended in failure. His poems revealed his yearnings to go back to the mountains after making a public contribution, but they also show his frustration from the reality which does not live up to his dreams.

Recently, if anyone is asked what “Saojung” is, they will automatically answer that it is either a person who does not understand well what others are saying about or an early retirement. It is not easy to hear the real answer, which is the follower of Samjang Popsa in Seoyoo-gi. If there is a survey about the image of Yi Taebaek, the answers from now on might be more of “Youth Unemployment” instead of “Poet,” “Holy Spirit,” “Moon,” “Yang Gwi-bi.” The unemployment rate of youth hit the eight percent level, and there is an increasing number of unemployed people who are quitting their job search. The word “Yi Tae Baek” is now famous for its meaning as the abbreviation of the phrase “Most of the people in their twenties are jobless good-for-nothings” (from the pronunciation of the word, yi meaning two, tae meaning most, and baek meaning jobless). The phrase makes sense since the Korean word for good-for-nothings came from the Buddhist god of “Gandharva” who lived on incense instead of meat or rice and sang while flying in the air.

This is not the end of popular words to mock the unemployed youth. As the number of students who skip semesters because of lack of confidence in finding jobs after graduation grows, the term “fifth grade of university” is as widely used as the term “fourth grade of high school.” To get hired by a large corporation is like having a camel go through an eye of a needle, and if one is successful, it is the subject of pride for the entire family. Any third party can laugh over these phrases, but the victims of unemployment and their family members cannot express their agonies enough. There are cries of young unemployed people on an internet site: “Should I shave my head bald and become a monk? But will they accept me at the temples?”; “Now I grow old everyday, I sometimes think I should rather spend my days in a prison.”; “I detest people more and more. No, rather I am afraid of them.”

There are not only people who want to be hired by large corporations among the young and unemployed, but also there are many who would feel grateful even with a job with an annual salary of 15 million won. If a company has 15 billion won, there are 1,000 unemployed young people saved with this. However, the companies are too busy with offering bribes of 10 to 15 billion won each time in trucks and boxes. The politicians have stolen thousands of jobs from the young people. If one has to rot, it should not stink. What nerves the politicians are to cry out slogans, “We will give jobs to young people!”

Editorial Writer Chun Gwang-am, iam@donga.com