Yohwan Won, Maeil Economy

‘How to counter annoying questions by relatives during holidays’ㅡthe hottest buzzwords on SNS right now. The scenario goes like this: your curious, often painfully meddlesome auntie or uncle tries to stir you up with some variation of questions such as “How’s your study going?”, “Did you get a job yet?”, and “When are you gonna get married?”; keep calm and unleash your own questions at his/her face: “Have you got promoted at all?”, “What is your post-retirement plan like?”, “Has your home price gone up a bit recently?” If they seem offended by any degree, you have won.

This year’s golden 3-day-long Chinese New Year holidayㅡcalled seollal(설날) in Koreaㅡwas unfortunately far from relaxing to the Korean young adults. Many decided not to attend their customary family reunions, presumably to avoid that annoying auntie/uncle situation above. They, instead, retreated to their cramped rental rooms and school libraries where they wrestled with TOEIC prep books and juggle their mostly empty résumés. The holiday, rather, made everything quite inconvenient for them, since all the businesses were closed for the season.

The art of satire naturally spawned out of this gloomy daily reality of our underemployed, financially squeezed young generationㅡ’How to counter…’being none other than a clever example of it. Satire, after all, is a way of criticizing the hard-pressed society in a refined fashion. It provides a humorous catharsis and wisdom whereby we keep on living in difficult times as now.

There are several satirical terms that have gone viral, which targeted the Korean job market and absurd hiring practices by some exploitative firms. The ‘passion pay’(열정페이) is certainly one; when a branch of multinational corporation made a public notice for an open position for an unpaid intern with “computer and multiple foreign language skills”, many scornfully congratulated it having ‘completed localization’.

When a humanitarian NGO looked for a new employee, whose work conditions entailed daily pay of ₩15,000($14US)ㅡsupposedly still covering lunch and transportationㅡfor 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, people mercilessly jeered at its ‘inability to go save their own interns.’

In the midst of this cornucopia of satire, I cannot help but wonder when all of this will end. An unprecedented rate of unemployment is collectively hurting the young generation. Jokes alone, for sure, will not be able to hold them for long in this tight economy.



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