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'OK, Boomer' moment in Korea

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By Jason Lim

The Boomers were the authors of the last great story of Korea, the one that tells of the down-trodden but plucky, pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps people who achieved wealth and democratization through individual courage and collective struggle. They were the "Just Do It" generation, sacrificing everything so they could "live well for once," as Park Chung-hee exhorted. They made something out of nothing through sheer will and effort.

This story held from 1960s to the end of 1990s when the IMF crisis hit and exposed the huge plot holes by laying bare the structural deficiencies in Korea's success model. As the old story fails, the narrative glue that used to bind Korea together has also loosened, leading to the deteriorating social and cultural cohesion that the older generations took for granted. The ruling conservatives, who are the keepers of the old story, are reacting to this dissonance by trying to retell the familiar and comforting story in a more forceful fashion ― this nostalgia drove the election of Park Geun-hye back in 2012, only to see her fall under the weight of the Candlelight Revolution.

The old story cannot last forever. What worked yesterday will not work today or tomorrow. For a story to remain salient, it needs........

© The Korea Times