This thesis main aim is not to deal with problematic labels, as Youth too quite simultaneously also represents a social construct. Nonetheless, regardless of how youth dynamism is experienced, these labels are at odds with lived experiences and the betrayed futures widely felt by a younger generation who no longer wish to be defined by the spirit of economic development, nationalism and the burdens of the past which dominated the political landscape since the 1960’s of president Pak (Cho, 2015; Robinson, 2007; Holsbeek, 2019a).
Instead, I focus on my informants stories, who in various felt intensities, are somewhat more anxious about cutthroat competition and socio-political disenfranchisement.
Narratives of shame and sorrow, or grief, or social suffering are imbued with social critique. It is laden with emotionality, though not completely seen as just a sad story. Moreover, I am particularly interested in how they encounter a certain complexity of life, that allows these young informants and participants to affiliate, negotiate, construct or mediate not only their own sense of being in a certain situatedness, but also how they succeed in mobilizing past traumatic collective memory as such.
As I will show, these narratives of shame and sorrow are part of social memory through which, more often than not, they attempt to move beyond the usual ideologically-inclined state-remembered mnemonic practices. Mnemonic practices, or the social praxis of remembering and forgetting as such, implies the means through which a group, a community or a society reconstructs, mediates, transforms or renegotiates, albeit traumatic or not, painful experiences of the past (Halbwachs, 1980; Connerton, 1989, Connerton, 2009; Holsbeek; 2018, Coser, 1992).
Taking this into consideration, the main focus lies on the many, yet at times unflinchingly brutal, narratives of shame and sorrow told by my informants. These narratives showcase how “life itself” has become threshold of highly symbolic, yet share with each other an implication of painful embarrassment or a sense of being devastated that one tries to transcend it.
In After dirigisme: globalization, democratization, the still faulted state and its social discontent in Korea, Park Hun Joo eloquently asserts:”Extremely rapid and massive urbanization and its impact […] left people disconnected from one another like beans in a sack, in an anomic and asocial state unsure of how one’s life can meaningfully and constructively connect with others” (Park, 2002; 82). Indeed, it were rapid transformation, industrialization, or the legacy thereof, years of stressing out the importance of economic development, globalization, adopting a neoliberal agenda and the more recent political changes that left most of my informants with a sense of uncertainty. In this changed socio-political and cultural climate most of my interlocutors witnessed that working hard for a better future and a good life, began to lose its meaning
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