Inkyu Kang | Penn State Behrend
Here and Now: The Art and Politics of Happiness of South Korean Millennials
This study aims to investigate the discourses of sohwakhaeng (small but certain happiness) by situating them in South Korea’s political and economic changes since the 1987 democratization and the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The existing discussions of the notion will be critically evaluated through statistics and discourse analysis. Korean Millennials are often criticized for their political indifference, but statistical data paint a different picture: They have been actively intervening in wide-ranging sociopolitical issues such as feminism, environmentalism and animal rights, not to mention traditional political issues. Generational differences are not unique to them, but “Generation 2030” does stand out from their predecessors. They are not only challenging dominant values such as education, marriage and family, but they are also walking away from religion: only 31 percent of those aged 20-29 have a religion now, a significant drop from 45 percent in 2004. This study suggests that the art and politics of happiness of the Millennials have been “othered” and marginalized as “irresponsible” and "short-sighted" by older generations attempting to enforce their own sense of “true happiness.” The focus of this study will be on the Millennials’ pursuit of sohwakhaeng in terms of micropolitics, analyzing its broader socioeconomic implications.