A childish man representing ‘Twixter,’ a newly coined word for the people trapped between adolescence and adulthood, appears on the Korean TV series named ‘Come out, Gold,’ a translation for Korean phrase ‘Guem nawara, tuktak.’ He waits for his mother’s payday and teases her for some pocket money. He does not want to have a humble job, so he spends all day puttering around the house under the guise of studying. He is a typical twixter, known as ‘kangaroo group’ in Korea, and the young like him are increasing fast.
Kangaroo group is a term indicating young people in their twenties to thirties who are not economically independent although they have enough capacity to achieve financial independence from their parents. They do not try to be hired or tend to go to work, and opt to live with their parents, due to the economic assistance from them. University students, as social grown-ups, do not stop depending on their parents’ financial means despite the dictionary’s definition of ‘adult’ as a grown-up person who can take responsibility on their shoulders, acting in mature and intelligent ways especially when faced with difficulty. In this situation, can university students be called as the grown-ups?
Park, a 23-year-old student who is going to graduate soon, lives apart from her parents. To get a job, she attended an English language program in the United States for a year. Now she takes classes in a language institute while going to school at the same time. All tuition came out from her parents, including the allowance. It makes her feel sorry for her parents, but she thinks she cannot help them due to her situation of preparing for employment.
She has never thought that her parents would stop supporting her for monetary means. Kim, another 26-year-old student, lives in a dormitory apart from her parents. She thought she needed to study more about her major, so she decided to go to a graduate school, delaying her search for a job. After the mid-term exam, she went on an overseas trip to Japan. All the expense for studying, traveling and even for food was from her parents. She feels thankful to parents, but she thinks she is not the only one who relies on parents like this.
Like the two students above, other university students who depend on the financial means of parents are increasing. Recent statistics from National Statistical Office (NSO) showed that 67.8 percent of university students come up with their tuition asking for their parents, and about 40 percent of students said that all tuition came from their parents.
This dependence is getting intensified and some of the students called ‘mama’s students’ and parents named ‘helicopter parent’ have shown up in schools. In this relationship, the children socially recognized as grown-ups depend on their parents too much. Not only in financial parts but also every single decision like choosing course. They leave their entire lives to their parents. Also, in the case of helicopter parents, their excessive advice and control make the problem more serious. The parents care for everything for their children from choosing good courses to getting better grades in classes. And even worse, after this child graduates the school, they still try to control them in the events like getting married, preparing employment, and even quitting a job.
According to an investigation by KEIS, the kangaroo group, aged from 30 to 34, accounts the most. For these reasons, it is getting harder for the parents to save money for their own retirement. Paying college tuition for their children, parents feel the financial burden and difficulty to prepare for later life at the same time. Besides, children ask not only just for tuition fee, but also another cost for getting a job like enrolling career training institutes, image making for job interviews. According to Job Korea, a recruiting portal site for students, in 2012, they announced that university students spend more than 2,630,000 won annually on average for private education. Although the average spending decreased 100,000 won compared to that of last year, still it accounts a large portion of students’ expenses. Considering the fact that child rearing expense is almost 300 million won on average for their lifetime, it will not be easy for parents to think about their preparation for later years.
Also, 59.5 percent of university students said that they will not be independent financially from their parents even after getting a job. According to a survey carried out by Albamon, a web portal which supports various notices for getting part-time jobs, most students think that they would still depend on their parents to a certain degree for living expense, housing cost and so on.
For being dependent incessantly, some students have a less sense of obligation. They do not discharge their responsibility for performing the work assigned to them. For example, they consider that the group projects in classes are beyond their province. Because of this, some students are damaged in earning good credits. Also, even for an individual work, some students use agencies when doing assignments or a work needed for graduation, and making attendances instead of themselves. While performing group or individual works, they continuously avoid the duties and show lack of responsibility.
Then, what causes students to depend on their parents excessively? For external causes, there is a problem of social structure related with money and time. From high tuition of colleges to fancy resumes full of qualifications for getting a job, students in university face ordeals to confront without any help. In reality, 44.3 percent of college students have experiences of receiving private lectures after entering university, such as tutoring programs for essay tests, learning language abroad and studying for getting a certificate or good grade in public certification tests.
If students have a part-time job trying to avoid asking monetary help of their parents, they do not have enough time for seeking permanent position in a workplace. In addition to this, the students who have part-time jobs are not considered as a legal working population. Even if they invest their time for making money, they are not treated well. The rights of those who have a part-time job are limited in terms of using time or searching a position, so they have no option but working long hours and getting a lower salary than regular workers. Actually, according to a study carried by Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, university students who have part-time jobs work 33.2 hours a week on average and get paid about 900,000 won a month. Some of the students are not even assured the minimum wage in South Korea, 4,860 won.
The problem lies not only in external causes, but also in internal causes. As a form of nuclear family has been getting popular in modern society, one-child households are becoming more common. For this reason, parents started to concentrate on fostering their one child. Based on their financially embarrassing experiences related to IMF, parents supported their children in many ways. Incessant support made children take it for granted, and children started to ask for it without a qualm. Without having a chance to raise a sense of independence, the children just go out to work and quit their jobs so easily. According to the survey conducted by Korea Employers’ Federation, 23.6 percent of new employees quit the job for the reason that they cannot adjust to their duty in the business.
To correct this, what can be done first? To solve the external factor, we can look forward to ‘promise of half-price tuition’ and improvement on the working condition in part-time jobs for students. Since the problem of social structure cannot be solved easily, we could access to crumb one beforehand. For instance, getting information from career counselors and making study groups can be done to cut back the cost for private lessons. Students have to acknowledge that parents’ financial means are not students’. Also, parents should know that excessive devotion to children could downgrade their children’s dignity and satisfaction.
And when the devotion is too much, it can make their children have depression. Parents should acknowledge that their children are not their possession and they are separate like themselves. Since their children were young, parents should raise their children with independence. In a psychological view, students may feel uneasiness without back-up, but they can solve it through consulting other people about their problems.
Contemporary university students, accustomed to parents’ unconditional support, tend to expect a continuous backing, especially for the financial part. They enjoy the sense of freedom, but they still do not get out from their parents. As social grown-ups, can students have spirit of independence with financial self-reliance? For the students in Korea, entering the society as adults with full responsibility and independence still does not seem to be easy.