Young professionals incensed over preferential treatment of politician's son

한겨레 입력 2021. 9. 28. 17:56
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After it was revealed that the son of Rep. Kwak Sang-do, formerly of the People Power Party, was awarded severance pay of 5 billion won, young professionals have been voicing their anger over the disparity in compensation and opportunity between the politician's son and themselves
Rep. Jeon Yong-gi (center) of the Democratic Party stands outside the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Monday morning, holding a criminal complaint against Rep. Kwak Sang-do, formerly of the People Power Party, for violating the Public Official Election Act and the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information. (Yonhap News)

Young professionals are expressing their outrage over news that the 31-year-old son of independent lawmaker Kwak Sang-do — formerly of the People Power Party — received 5 billion won (US$4.2 million) in severance pay from Hwacheon Daeyu, an asset management company.

One young person surnamed Park who receives a monthly salary similar to what Kwak's earned said, "I've been 'all in' at the company for 10 years, and my expected severance is less than a 100th of Kwak's. Am I supposed to believe that countless office workers are living like this because we don’t work as hard as Kwak? His nonsensical statement only makes me angrier."

Ordinary office workers and young professionals have expressed frustration over the younger Kwak's explanation, saying things like, "It’s just like ‘horses’ in the squid game," referring to the hit Netflix series.

On Monday, social media and online communities were abuzz with posts referencing the scandal and its absurdity, with messages like "Now that’s what I call true FIRE (financial independence, retire early)" or "I want to work somewhere like that (which pays 5 billion won in severance).”

A 29-year-old professional surnamed Kim said, "Ordinary people are also putting everything into their work at companies, so why shouldn’t others get 5 billion won in severance? How on earth can a company give 5 billion won in severance?"

Young professionals are criticizing the politician's son for claiming ignorance over how he benefited from his father’s influence. The younger Kwak said he joined the company after his father made an introduction for him, and that he "bet everything" on the company in the belief that he would win big by going "all in" on Hwacheon Daeyu instead of stocks or cryptocurrency.

This year saw an investment boom among workers in stocks and crypto, with analysts saying this was because people who saw no future in wage work were diving headfirst into riskier financial activities.

A 31-year-old office worker who had started investing a portion of their monthly salary in stocks last year said, "Real estate prices have risen to an unimaginable level and I'm barely managing my money on stocks, hoping to hit it big with crypto or stocks, but getting preferential treatment pays off more.”

Another worker, 30, said, "Not all office workers do crypto or stocks. I'm too busy earning and living on the money I make at work, so I have no seed money to make such investments."

Hwacheon Daeyu is also under fire for claiming that the large severance given to Kwak's son was compensation for an "industrial accident.” The company said the amount comprised around 30 million won in severance, 500 million won in incentive pay and 4.4 billion won in such compensation. Yet there have been no other cases in which an ordinary company has given such an astronomical sum in compensation to a worker in Korea.

Cynical reactions arose online, with users saying things like, "You won't get 5 billion won even if you go blind or lose a limb," and "Can you believe that Korean companies care so much for their workers?"

By Park Su-ji, staff reporter

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