When it comes to the Korean Peninsula, it’s generally the reclusive North that’s not considered a good place to live.
But many fail to realize that the South isn’t all that great as well. In fact, young Koreans dislike their country so much, they want to rename it to “Hell Joseon,” which, according to Korea Exposé, is described as “an infernal feudal kingdom stuck in the 19th century.”
It’s an odd fact, considering South Korea was named the third best place in the world for young people in 2014, right after Australia and Sweden and above the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States.
The index listed 30 countries based on factors like economic opportunity, education, and safety for youth and South Korea, as is obvious from its ranking, fared rather well in all those areas.
Yet, more young Koreans are leaving their country in search of a better life. The good life is only good if you have the cash to burn, young South Koreans say. Those that don't, suffer.
“In South Korea 410,000 young people in their 20s are looking for work and unemployed. This is up from 330,000 in 2013 and is a 15-year high,” as per last year’s stats from the Korea Herald. In addition, the Korea Times reported how people in their 20s and 30s feel hopeless about their futures in South Korea “because of the nation's limited social safety nets."
Kim Seok-ho, a sociology professor at Seoul National University, cited the 2014 MV Sewol ferry disaster, which left more than 300 people dead or missing, as an example to illustrate the growing frustration and urge among South Koreans to leave for abroad.
"Many young people have been disappointed over the government's botched response to the disaster," he stated. "It has left more people considering moving abroad."
Northern European countries are popular migration destinations because South Koreans believe they provide equal rights to all citizens, irrespective of their wealth and status.
"The younger generation is more open to globalization," Kim added. "They can access information about migration more easily than the previous generation."
The South Korean Foreign Ministry put the number of Koreans living in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden doubled from 2,123 in 2007 to 4,113 in 2013, according to the Chosun Ilbo.
Although the Park Geun-hye administration has tried to increase the overall employment rate to 70 percent by 2017 — the president even promised to donate part of her monthly paycheck to the cause — more drastic changes are needed.
“Politicians and bureaucrats must think strategically to shift more of the fruits of South Korea’s economic growth from business to workers, young and old,” commented Hyung-a Kim, an associate professor at the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific, in an article for East Asia Forum. “One approach could be to direct a greater share of the returns of economic growth to more direct job creation, for example by boosting domestic demand. Just letting the chaebol dictate national policy will only make the rich richer and the poor poorer.”