Currently, the South Korean TV series Squid Game is a hit. It must be said that the program portrays the society of this country in a way that seems to appeal to the youth. However, this series comes at a time when South Korea is facing a generational quarrel, and more generally, a class struggle.
Too realistic works?
Squid Game is a series of nine episodes whose concept has surprised both the public and the critics. The story begins with 456 people living in Seoul (South Korea) heavily in debt and invited to participate in traditional children’s games. But then, the outcome of these games is fatal for the losers, while the winners are promised an astronomical sum of money. This series ultimately illustrates the desperation of certain lower strata of South Korean society, just as the film Parasite (2019) did before it..
In an article from October 22, 2021, Bloomberg referred to a generational feud by giving the example of Seoul capital central market. The inexpensive shops and street food that are popular with retirees are gradually giving way to young hipsters frequenting chic cafes and other restaurants. This contrast is obviously striking and each of the parties has a say.
In addition, for the elders, some young people are relatively well off in part thanks to the workers having participated in the development of the country after the Korean War (1950-1953). On the youth side, many people think that access to property and the job market is as difficult as what is shown in Squid Game and Parasite.
A very unequal society
The generational quarrel actually hides a desperation of the South Korean proletariat in general. If South Korea has the reputation of being a very modern country with a flourishing economy, the two cinematographic works nevertheless describe a very unequal society, in which the poor have no other recourse than lies and delinquency in order to survive. These inequalities and the particularly difficult working conditions have also led thousands of trade unionists to demonstrate in Seoul on October 20, 2021. Moreover, some of these demonstrators wore the typical disguises characters from Squid Game.
It must be said that the poverty rate in South Korea is 16.7%, the fourth highest in the entire OECD, behind countries such as Costa Rica, the United States, Romania and Israel. . In addition, the median wage difference between a man and a woman in South Korea is 32.5%, and this is the highest rate in the OECD.
Inequalities can also be explained by the fact that the urban area of the capital Seoul concentrates 50% of the population of the whole country. Rents doubled between 2015 and 2020 and therefore increased much faster than wages. Young people face an increasingly closed labor market and home ownership almost impossible. However, the presidential elections of March 2022 could allow us to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Indeed, the democratic left supported by young people has a good chance of beating the conservative right.