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`I grew up middle class, but will soon enter the lower-income bracket`

`I grew up middle class, but will soon enter the lower-income bracket`

Posted January. 14, 2013 03:52,   


“I had no difficulties growing up thanks to my father. I expected my life would go easy. But now...I`m not sure if I will have the opportunity to marry (before getting too old), let alone have a successful career.”

A 29-year-old man said this recently. Widely envied by his friends, he always received the highest grades, graduated from a foreign language high school, and studied at an Ivy League university in the U.S. His father, a dermatologist practicing in Seoul, supported him by paying 100 million won (94,700 U.S. dollars) a year for his son`s overseas study expenses.

When the man returned to Korea after finishing studying three years ago, however, the label "long-term jobless youth" was applied to him.

“I heard the news that a graduate of a prestigious university in the U.S. works part-time for 2 dollars per hour, but I never expected I`d face the same fate, though I majored in humanities, a major that companies do not favor..."

He said he submitted dozens of job applications but never received a phone call for an interview, adding, “The situation is totally different from that of my father’s generation. Without my parents’ support, I would effectively belong to the lower class.”

The traditional principle of joining the middle class, in which one can land a quality job and secure a stable life through hard work, is growing more invalid in Korea. The country`s ladder of success that has sustained Korean society since the 1960s is being swayed from its very roots.

The younger generation is not alone facing such a difficult situation. Even among older Koreans who joined the middle class, more than a few are falling out of the middle class due to the rise in early retirement caused by the protracted economic slump; failure to secure a stable income due to saturation of the market for the self-employed; a fall in asset value stemming from a stagnant real estate market; and a decline in financial gains due to low interest rates.

Kim Dong-yeol, a senior researcher at Hyundai Research Institute in Seoul, said, “The dismantlement of the middle class not only leads to an economic burden, including a slump in domestic consumption, and a hike in social welfare costs, but also generates general side effects, including deepening social conflict and political uncertainty over the long term,” adding, “Comprehensive actions are necessary to address this.”