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Korea’s Baby Boomers Face Retirement

Posted November. 01, 2005 03:01,   


Korean baby boomers, who have supported the Korean economy since the 1980s, are expected to withdraw from the front line of society in the next three to 11 years.

When this generation, which presently accounts for 16.8 percent (8.16 million) of the total population, recedes, Korean society will face a totally different situation.

They are between 42 to 50 years old, and most of them are already on their way out of the workplace after the impact of the foreign currency crisis. The rest is also expected to retire at age 53 on average.

Unlike Japan`s postwar baby boomers (born between 1947 to 1949), dubbed as members of the "dankai" generation, born after the Second World War and who fully enjoyed Japan’s era of economic prosperity, and unlike American baby boomers (born between 1946 to 1964) who benefit from an established social safety net, Korean baby boomers will have to exit society unprepared.

“There have been a lot of mistakes made since Korean society didn’t have a proper social system, which has encouraged fierce competition. Korean baby boomers have done everything they can to make changes, but stand to gain few fruits for themselves, which is a pity,” said Ham In-hee, a sociology professor at Ewha Women’s University.

They were directly hit by the financial crisis in their early thirties or forties, when they were at the peak of their working lives.

In addition, their generation supported their parents, but likely won’t receive that same support from their children, which makes their post-retirement life more insecure.

However, there are optimistic forecasts as well, such as they are highly educated and relatively healthy.

The structure of the Korean industry is now focused on the service and information industry, which benefits the aged people and suggests that their withdrawal could come later than expected.

“Korean baby boomers have a larger political influence and stronger voice than the aged people today. It is also possible that companies and society will extend the retirement age,” said Cho Yeong-tae, a professor from the population studies lab of Inha University.