As an American living in South Korea I find it interesting to compare and contrast the similarities and dissimilarities that exist between America and Korea. In the article posted below Mr. Kim has some keen insights into the divisions that exist in Korean society and compares it with what is happening in America today. He makes the point that these divisions will have an effect on the Presidential elections in Korea and America in 2012. I agree with him that these divisions do exist and he does a great job of bringing clarity to these issues.
By, Kim, Seong-kon
The Korea Hearld
December 29, 2011
http://www.koreaherald.com/opinion/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20111213000608 When they say there are two Koreas, it naturally means North and South Korea. These days, however, it also means the division of South Korea into two antagonizing groups like east and west, conservatives and progressives and left and right. It is lamentable that today’s South Korea is radically divided into two hostile extremes, tearing the already half-reduced country into two again.Perhaps the only comfort is that Korea is not alone in experiencing such a phenomenon; people say that there are also two Americas. Recently, Time magazine carried an intriguing article entitled, “The New Generation Gap,” that insightfully discussed the seemingly irreducible chasm between the two Americas. It reads: “For the past several years, our political conversation has focused on great divides in our national life: red and blue, the coasts vs. the heartland, the 1 percent vs. the 99 percent.” These sharp, yet vast divides in both the Korean and American societies primarily result from the generation gap between the young and the old. The Time article, too, pointed out that age makes all the difference: “But the deepest split is the one that cuts across all these and turns not on income or geography but on age.” The article named the younger of the two the “The Millennial Generation (aged 18-30)” and the older one “The Silent Generation (aged 66-83).” According to Time, the Millennial Generation refers to Americans born after 1980 who reached adulthood during the Clinton, Bush, and Obama eras, while the Silent Generation includes Americans over 65 who came of age between World War II and the Vietnam War. The Millennial Generation almost always carries iPhones and iPads with headphones plugged into their ears, constantly surfing the Internet, whereas the Silent Generation is remote from such electronic devices and mainly stay offline, unaware of online social networks, and completely excluded from the online communities so pervasive among younger people. South Korea, too, is suffering from the same generation gap. Due to unprecedented technological advancement, the Korean Millennial Generation seems to live in an entirely different world from the conventional, offline world in which the computer-illiterate Silent Generation resides. Born during the right-wing Chun Doo-hwan era, but raised under the force of radical social change during the left-leaning Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun presidencies, these young people harbor progressive views on sociopolitical issues. On the other hand, the Korean Silent Generation refers to the people who were born after the liberation and experienced dramatic social turmoil and political upheavals such as the Korean War, the 4/19 Students’ Revolution, the 5/16 Military Coup and so on. Meanwhile, they have become anti-Communist conservatives who once lived under the right-wing military dictatorship. These were hard-working people who did not hesitate to sacrifice themselves for the economic development of South Korea. To their disappointment, however, the younger generation does not want to acknowledge their elders’ efforts and toils. Instead, they simply relish the sweet juice of astonishing economic growth. Worse, the Millennial Generation tends to dismiss the Silent Generation as hopelessly conservative surplus people. Both in Korea and America, indeed, young and old people perceive everything so differently that nothing seems to be able to reduce the vast sea of differences between them. And their different views have been vividly reflected in the election. For example, we have seen many younger Koreans voting for the Democratic Party who claims to be progressive, and many older Koreans vote for the Grand National Party, which is more conservative. Time magazine predicted that “The 2012 election could be one of the starkest intergenerational showdowns in American history.” The same thing will happen during the 2012 elections in South Korea as well. Meanwhile, another generation is now emerging in Korean society. This new generation is what we may call the “Angry Generation,” who is angry not only with the incompetence and corruption of right-wing conservative politicians, but also with the deception and violence of left-wing radicals. The Angry Generation, which is not defined by just one age group, is tired of the ideological warfare in Korean society between the left and the right. Doubtful of both progressives and conservatives, they call for an end to the chronic antagonism in Korean society. They are angry at the bleak job market, endless social and political turbulence, and the selfishness of power-hungry politicians. They are also angry at the prejudice of Korean society against others ― foreigners, strangers and fellow citizens from other provinces. This frustrated Angry Generation will decisively affect the 2012 elections in South Korea, which will serve as a judgment day for both the ruling GNP and the opposition DP. The 2012 elections will be a crucial moment for South Korea, since depending on the outcome, South Korea may be able to soar into the skies, or unable to take off and eventually crash to the ground. Like the Angry Young Men in the American 1950s, the Korean Angry Generation will trust no one and revolt against the hypocrisy and absurdity of our society in order to create a better society.By Kim Seong-konKim Seong-kon, a professor of English at Seoul National University, is editor of the literary quarterly “21st Century Literature.” ― Ed.
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