[Writer's Choice] Young Koreans want that YOLO life

Priscilla Tov, Jan. 26, 2018, 12:21 p.m.


While BTS' newest song "Go Go" is a catchy tune filled with meme dances, the lyrics call attention to the YOLO culture that has engulfed young Koreans for the past two years. Though the popularity of the term "YOLO" can be attributed to Drake back in 2011, in Korea, the term began to gain ground in early 2016 from the show "Youth Over Flowers: Africa."

Actor Ryu Jun Yeol praised a girl for traveling along, to which she replied, "YOLO, you only live once."

Korea's youth have taken this phrase and turned it into their new life mantra. South Korea's youth unemployment hovers around 10% and today's youth are less likely to be able to afford things like a house or having a family. The future for them is bleak and they figure that there is no point in saving for something that might not even happen. 

So they're going to "tangjinjam": spend money on temporary pleasures. 

Whether it's spending a lot to get one plushie from a claw machine or dropping $7 for a cup of coffee, the youth is going to spend their time and money on what they want rather than what society expects them to want. Some businesses have decided to capitalize on this behavior. ShinhanCard launched a YOLO credit card that offers discounts at retailers that the YOLO generation frequents. And the travel industry has seen a big boost as money that was previously put aside for the future is now spent on a weekend getaway ("staycation.")

Experts argue that these impulsive spending habits shouldn't be encouraged as it just cripples the youth even more. There's actually a small group of people who obsessively in response to the wild spending habits of the YOLO generation. Many are looking at President Moon Jae-in to fulfill his promise to tackle the youth unemployment issue. 

But is that possible in a country with entrenched practices that help the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?

And will the youth have to continue to seek happiness in frivolous purchases that distract them from the "hell chosen" they live in?

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