Sunday, October 6, 2019

Korean SKY Castle Myth

A college professor gives us his thoughts on the worries of many of the young people in Korean society. He begins his article in the Kyeongyang magazine with the TV drama 'SKY Castle', extremely popular among the viewers. It shows the efforts of the upper-class society to get their children admitted to the best universities. It had comedy and satire all mixed into the 20 or so episodes.

The portrayal on TV was true to life. Just recently one of those appointed to a high position in government was censured by the public for favoritism in a daughter's selection for college. It remains to be seen what will be the results of the legal process but it has been in the news many weeks. Young people have great difficulty with such news.

Children's education, exemptions from military service and the selection of public servants for positions in administration are very sensitive topics. Why should that be the case? Because it shows the possibility of wealth and place in society being passed on to the children of the elite.
Korea very quickly turned into a feudal society. In a slowly growing economy the limited fruits are first delivered to the privileged minority and what is left is divided among the rest. This malaise in society gives rise to discontent.

Those born before 1970 came into times with great economic growth and had the opportunity for wealth and prestige in society. The royal road for the minority was education. Those not so privileged would find wealth and position in society beyond their dreams and lamenting a society that closed the door to them.

Those born after the 70s, the numbers going to college increased greatly. In 1990, 33% went on to college, in 2000 the percentage went up to over 80%. They, for the most part, had a specialty. They were creative, globally-minded, and familiar in the search for information. Citizens traveling were not hesitant in dealing with foreigners, knew foreign languages and showed a great deal of confidence in dealing with foreigners, none of the inferiority of the past, they were well versed in democracy and totalitarianism was out of the question.

Young people were knowledgeable of the computer and smartphones and couldn't imagine life without them. They were competent in the world of technology. They did not separate work from play and searched for work they could enjoy. Different from the past they did not spend to show off but spent on their needs.

They were responsible for the Korean Wave of South Korean entertainment culture that spread throughout the world. They have not, however, been able to do much with the economic area of life. They are competent in many fields, have an inbred attribute for democratic ways, a special desire for making work and play a part in life. They grew up during a period of fierce competition and those that have received special favors will be their targets in the years ahead. They have many skills but they will find it difficult to escape the $650 a month salary which the recent college graduates are expecting to receive. Which was not the expectation of those who made it to college?

Young people will no longer stay on the sidelines watching how wealth and place in society are handed down. As they become the leaders, social change will come. Will they be able to bring about the change they want? Our society is now at the crossroads.

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