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[Opinion] The Generation War

Posted January. 20, 2005 22:46,   


Keepers, mammonae, tanggi, twix; these are not names of diaper brands or biscuits. They are terms describing youths in their 20s and 30s who, after graduating, could not find proper jobs and did not get married, only to live with their parents. It is not just in Korea (kangaroo group). This is a worldwide situation; called twix in the U.S., fritter in Japan, tanggi in France, keepers in U.K., and mammonae in Italy. The fault might lie with the difficult employment situation, but these young people quit their jobs within a year, saying, “They are not treating me to my standards.” This is because they have a permanent hill, their parents.

Unlike these individuals who have a well-off future thanks to their parents, the poor older generations are seen as public enemies. Every advanced country has put much effort into providing pension for elderly. U.S. President George W. Bush said, “If you are 20 years old, just think about the social security system that will soon be destroyed. If you do not prepare and provide for your own pension now, it will be your load in the future.” He has started a generation war.

This is because, despite the increasing life expectancy, the birth rate is falling. Thus at the end, only a few number of young people will have to support a massive number of elderly. Korea is an unprecedented country, with the fastest aging rate and the fastest dropping birth rate. This year, 7.9 youths supported one elderly, but in 2050, 1.4 youth will have to support one elderly. Maybe it will be wiser to work even at an old age and not spend everything on children when one is young.

Those who rely on their parents, and the older generations, who are supported by their children, are polarized- living under the same sky but under different roofs. Youths with rich fathers can receive blessings (or misfortune) even prior to adulthood. On the other hand, those with poor fathers experience misfortune (or blessing) living on their own and supporting their parents and even those of others’ through the taxes they pay. However, no one can tell who is better off, the parents or the children. Maybe this is why they say that the world is fair.

Editor Kim Sun-duk yuri@donga.com