How Do Young Precariats Make Their Voices Heard? Strategies, Symbolic Practices, and the Impact of South Korean Youth Movements

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Jin-Wook SHIN, Department of Sociology, Chung-Ang University, Republic of Korea
Boyeong JEONG, Chung-Ang University, Republic of Korea
Today, the youth are experiencing with particular intensity the problems of precarity in many aspects including income, employment, housing, and welfare. However, they greatly lack the financial, organizational, and political resources for drawing public attention to their suffering and claims. Therefore, what strategies, action methods, and symbolic practices may help them overcome such limitations is a crucial question for social movements of the young precarious people. South Korea has a very high level of income and job insecurity, limited social security provisions, weak working-class organizations and left-wing parties. In this sense, Korea is a case where the precarity and political weakness of the youth are particularly salient. What attracts scholarly attention is, however, that over the past few years, the youth movement has been able to draw great media attention and to influence public policy far more successfully than in the past. This study attempts to establish the factors that explain such movement impacts by investigating selected youth movement organizations such as the Youth Union, the Part-time Workers' Union, the Slug Union for Housing Welfare, and the Korea Youth Confederation. These SMOs not only attracted great attention from mainstream media, but also achieved immediate policy shifts of the government and corporations, or even became an actor influencing policy formation within the governance bodies of local governments including Seoul Metropolitan City. By combining the cultural approaches and the political mediation model in social movement research, this study analyzes the varieties and temporal changes in the relationship between the strategies and discursive repertoire of the SMOs, on the one side, and the media coverage and policy change of local governments, on the other side. We expect this research will contribute to finding an effective way in which the precarious youth themselves can influence public discourse and public policy.