Korea’s ‘Give Up’ Generation

give up generation korea hell joseon 1
There are many terms in this article that use Korean vocabulary in unique ways. To aid in understanding, here are some simple explanations of the terms that you will read in this article:
1. 880-thousand Generation (88만원 세대): This refers to the amount earned working full time on minimum wage. Many of these irregular or part-time workers are university graduates.
2. Sampo Generation (삼포 세대): This refers to the people who feel they must give up (포기하다) three major life events, mainly relationships, marriage, and children.
3. Opo Generation (5포 세대): Same as above, but giving up 5 things.
4. Chilpo Generation (7포 세대): Same as “Sampo” but giving up 7 things.
5. Ilpo Generation (일포 세대): When so many things must be sacrificed (given up) that it is like giving up on one (일) thing- just life itself.

Article from Kookmin Ilbo [2015/8/28]

The young and sick. “Opo” to “Chilpo”, the “give up” generation.

The names we affix to each generation is a reflection of the type of lives they are living. The 880-thousand Generation reflected the fierce job market and prevalence of irregular work for the young. Then, the “Sampo” generation were the ones who felt compelled to give up their dreams of relationships, marriage, and children. If becoming a home owner and sacrificing social life are added to the mix it becomes the “Opo” generation. Now, even two more sacrifices, dreams and hopes, have been added, dubbing this generation, “Chilpo

The younger generation have had to give up so many things that they are now calling themselves the “n-Po” generation. University student Chan-mok Lim, 25, said, “Myself and a lot of my friends are working part-time jobs to pay for tuition. If when we graduate there wouldn’t be a problem finding a job, we could smile through the difficulties we have now. But the reality is that when we graduate, finding a job will be a real problem. Even for those friends who have found a job, they worry about getting married. The ones who got married, they worry about how to buy a home. We are calling ourselves the ‘n-Po‘ generation because we are giving up all the things that are of value in life.”

The barriers young people are facing are reflected in their self-depreciating language. Internet communities made up of young people are creating new slang at a fast pace. Words alluding to current slang such as “dirt spoon” in comparison to “golden spoon” (someone who was born in a wealthy household). “Dirt spoon” refers to young people who grew up in a poor home, and have little financial support.

A game called “Dirt Spoon BINGO” appeared online. The game board has 5 rows and columns, filled with 25 sentences. In the rows and columns are items such as “I have had a part-time job.”, “There is no bidet in my house.” “Nobody in my house owns a car or the model is over 7 years old,” “My parents do not get regular check-ups.” “We have household debt.” and “I have shopped at a secondhand store.” If a sentence is true for the player, the player circles it. If the player has a Bingo (5 in a row) then the player yells “I’m a dirt spoon!” Many people upload their results onto social media or blogs.

A dirt spoon BINGO board.

A dirt spoon BINGO board.

Kim Su-han, professor of Sociology at Korea University, “Looking at the situation here the ‘whining strategy’ becomes rampant. Young people who cannot enjoy any benefits in life are feeling angry or disenfranchised and have taken to mockery and self-depreciation. The older generation is recognized for their hard work, but the younger generation is more known for inheritance than hard work when it comes to achieving success. This way of thinking reflects the difficulties young people face today.”

The difficulties young people face are showing up in the statistics. According to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, as of 2013, the poverty rate was 19.7% for 18 to 24 year olds and 12.3% for 25 to 29 year olds. The next highest rate was the 60 to 64 year old group at 20.3%. The youth unemployment rate has also been steadily rising from 9% in 2012 and 9.3% in 2013, up to 10% last year. Given that this number does not include how many have given up looking for work, are preparing for professional exams, or who are in graduate school, the real unemployment rate is much higher.

Even if you make a visit to business-packed Gwanghwamun, it is difficult to secure a job. The Korea Irregular Workers Center data shows that last year, of the total 3,410,000 workers in their 20’s, 47.4% were irregular workers.

Self-depreciation is a way of deriding society. Toward the end of last year, one internet community polled users on 2014’s Hottest Slang. In 1st was “sen-song hamnida” and in 2nd was “mi-gae hada”. “Sen-song hamnida” is short for “I’m sorry I’m Josenjing” [I’m sorry I’m Korean, spoken in a Japanese colonial dialect.] “Mi-gae hada” [backward, uncivilized] became a popular word after the son of a Seoul governor candidate said during local elections that, “If Korean people are uncivilized, doesn’t this mean Korea is an uncivilized nation?”

The young and miserable frequently describe Korea as hellish when they say, “Hell Joseon”, and they have even created “immigration gye” [funds collected by a group of friends to help save a large sum of money] to escape it. Jeong, a 25-year old office worker, is looking for people to create an immigration ‘gye’ with. Whether it be northern Europe, Australia, or New Zealand, a ‘gye’ can help raise funds, and can help with sharing information. Jeong said with a bitter grin on his face, “Some of my friends say they want to make an immigration ‘gye’ and a lot of people seemed interested. But to get together to make a ‘gye’ takes time and money that are in short supply, so we haven’t been able to start yet.”

As Professor Kim pointed out, “Seeing more and more young people using self-deprecating language and mockery, even thinking about ‘escaping’ [Korea], it is a sign that it is getting harder to find happiness and opportunity. We must create a society where there is equal opportunity and rules so that every person can compete.”

Comments from Naver :

At any rate this is only a nice country to live in if you are a congressperson or a celebrity.


“It hurts because it is youth.” is some bizarre BS. If they’re sick then they’re just patients… They say ‘chil-po’ generation, but in reality it ends up more like ‘il-po’ generation (giving up on life).


Anyone taking their morning shit while reading this?


I’m at a loss for words… really…


I’m studying to get my international finance certification. Once I get it, I’m planning to emigrate.


Young people these days have the most beefed-up resumes in all of history, but even they can’t find a job. So are people really saying that the kids all have too high expectations and aren’t working hard enough?


When I read an article like this, there are always people who blame lack of effort on the part of individuals despite the fact that there are serious problems in society. Of course, if an individual works hard, then no matter if they are a “sampo”, “ohpo” or “chilpo”, they can live well. However the fact that the majority of young people have such a hard time reveals that it’s due to bigger institutional issues. If the young who are supposed to support our society fail, there is no future for us.


I don’t date and I quit smoking and hanging out with my friends so I was able to save 300,000 won. I saved some money, so why am I a little sad?


Even though I talk shit about those “golden spoons”, I really envy them.


I have no idea who made up ‘Hell Joseon’ but it is fucking spot on. Truly there couldn’t be a better way to sum up the current situation in Korea than those three syllables.


Are Korean kids too nice or are they just stupid? In places like France, people are making a big deal and staging huge demonstrations where they demand politicians act properly and create jobs.


A lot of commenters are saying young people are pathetic. Do you think they want to be pathetic? In this day and age the goverment’s role is to narrow the gap between rich and poor, and to ease conflict between classes. We need to talk about if Korea is doing well or not. Everyone stay strong! And let me at that I got married and now am raising a 6-month old. It’s hard but it’s not any harder than it is for anyone else. You can do it!


How about lowering congress people’s salaries so we can help the ‘n-po’ generation?


The only answer for this country is emigration.


Those fat old guys say the younger generation are all lazy and pathetic. Shut the fuck up. We don’t try to get manual jobs because we hate how you look down on us. Getting old isn’t some great feat you know.


Those angry old guys are always like this. They work their asses off so their sons can work at a major company or become public servants. They refuse to let their daughters marry a guy who works at a small or midsized company, or anyone who does manual labor. Their generation has the strongest caste mindset when it comes to professions and they practice it the most. Yet they say to anyone who isn’t their kid to lower their standards and learn some trade or work for a small business. Shitty mentality for real.


Yup, this is my Hell Joseon.


I quit my crappy low-paying desk job for a job in manual labor. Of course being the sole wage-earner makes getting married more difficult, but fortunately even without help from my or my girlfriend’s families we were able to have a wedding. It’s okay to start out in a small place, too. Look around you, stay strong, and see how many jobs there are out there. Even if you have to work in manual labor, if you have a vision for your life, there’s nothing wrong with going for it. You can do it!


kekekekeke I laugh because I am young, you fucking shitty world.


What a crappy article to wake up to. First of all, cut the amount of universities in half. This is all because everyone is a university student. The situation is like this because they graduate and say they will only work in white collar jobs. The real situation is that in the jobs market, there is a scarcity of blue-collar workers.

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