Meet the Korean “Kangaroos”

Most parents want to protect their children from the hardships of the world. Korea, That often means to continue Providing them a home Even after becoming an adult.

“To be honest, how can I afflict my dear son?” Lee Young-wook (61) said.

His son, Lee Jung-kyu, is 31 years old and lives with his parents in the house where he grew up in Bundang, a suburb of Seoul. Their home is not a mansion, but a small apartment large enough for three people to live in.

Despite the small space, young Lee has never moved and lived alone and has no intention of immediately securing his place.

He is a member of the “Kangaroo” in South Korea and is a name for unmarried men and women in their 30s and 40s who have not left their parents’ homes. The name suggests an image of overgrown marsupials not coming out of the mother’s bag.

According to a recent report by the Korean Statistics Bureau, more than 50% of unmarried adults aged 30 to 40 and 44% of unmarried adults aged 40 to 44 are still living with their parents.

The report, released at the end of March, was controversial in the country. Popular stereotypes The kangaroo tribe is made up of Koreans who have failed to succeed in their lives. The report features 42% of children living with their parents unemployed, and mainstream media reports show that exhausted and elderly parents are with carefree and unemployed adult children. Said that.

However, despite recent media attention, experts say: In contrast to the United StatesIn Korea, it has long been common for children to live with their parents until they grow up.

Professor Ke Bong-o of Kookmin University said, “The kangaroo phenomenon is not a modern phenomenon in Korea. In the 1980s and 2010s, adults in their 30s and 40s who lived with their parents. There is no big difference in the proportions. ” The university said.

Photo: Song Jonghyun, 36 years old

Photo: Song Jonghyun, 36 years old

Moreover, the lack of financial independence is one of the reasons why children do not leave their nests, but in reality, many people continue to live in their homes for a variety of reasons, and the kangaroo phenomenon is not that simple. There is none. As is often depicted in popular culture

For some adult children, this arrangement makes it easier to care for older parents and also saves money for the future. Others, especially single women, refer to their parents. Conservative view As a reason not to move out.

For example, Song Jonghyun (36) and Nan Yunjin (33) have long had the financial resources to live alone. Both women work as teachers at a public junior high school in Seoul. This is one of the most popular professions in South Korea. However, their parents believe that women should move after they get married.

“My parents think the world is a dangerous place for women to live alone,” Son said.

For many singles, living with their parents can be stuffy. Both Song and Nang are happy with the deal, but emphasize the real benefits.

“My mother still cooks me breakfast and pays for my living and utilities. It’s not much different than when I was a student, except that I’m currently working,” Nan said. .. “My mother wants me to save money in preparation for my marriage.”

Photo: Nan Yun Jin, 33 years old.

Photo: Nan Yun Jin, 33 years old.

Living with his parents saved him time and money because he didn’t have to worry about doing the laundry and other household chores himself. In addition, if she needs advice or wants to discuss important issues, her parents will knock immediately.

Instead of taking advantage of her parents’ continued generosity, she said it was a mutually beneficial situation.

“I’m not the only one enjoying this life. I’m really grateful that my parents were with me,” she said. “As my parents get older, they’re on their smartphones. I find certain things, such as use and operation of online banking, very difficult. I often help because I live together. My parents often tell me that I can’t imagine living without me. . “

In the early 2000s, when the word “kangaroo” became popular in South Korea, the unemployment rate was high among young people, and many of the recent college graduates could not find a job and lived with their parents.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the youth unemployment rate surged from 5.7% to 12.2% between 1997 and 1998, and then dropped slightly to 8.1% in 2000. In 2020, the youth unemployment rate in South Korea was 9%.

Photo: Lee Young-wook (61) and his son Lee Jung-kyu (31) live with their parents in his home in Bundang, a suburb of Seoul.

Photo: Lee Young-wook (61) and his son Lee Jung-kyu (31) live with their parents in his home in Bundang, a suburb of Seoul.

However, people used to look down on the members of the kangaroo tribe because they were socially and economically incompetent, but according to Ke, their stigma is beginning to fade.

“People are now aware that achieving financial independence in this era is becoming more and more difficult,” he said.

Lee Chul-hee, a professor of economics at Seoul National University, said that the Korean economy is Achievement of financial independence And it is becoming more and more difficult for the younger generation to live alone.

“Housing prices in big cities, including Seoul, have risen sharply since 2000, but the job market is very volatile and the number of temporary jobs is increasing,” Lee said. “All these factors make it much more difficult for people in their 30s and 40s to leave their parents’ homes and become independent.”

Given the fact that his son has never had a stable job, Lee Young-wook is confident that he has made the right choice not to force him to move.

“My wife and I want to be like a big mountain where my son can always lean on,” he said. “I don’t worry about him at all until he’s at least 35 years old.”