More and more young Koreans are turning into recluses after giving up searching for work in an increasingly dispiriting job market conditions.
They often stay home for months without interacting with anyone as they ponder their fate. There are no exact figures of just how many people in Korea fall into this category, but Statistics Korea tallies the number of unemployed people aged 15 to 29 who say they "just spend time at home."
Their number grew from around 200,000 in 2008 to 290,000 this year, or a record 19.5 percent of all unemployed young Koreans.
Kim Jae-woo (27) graduated from a university outside of Seoul in February and applied for jobs at more than 150 companies. But only 15 companies asked him for an interview. He started out looking for permanent positions that pay W30 million a year, but later began applying even for minimum-wage contract work, all to no avail (US$1=W1,120).
Kim broke contact with his friends when all attempts to find work failed. "When my friends asked me what I'm doing, I had nothing to tell them and eventually ended up becoming a recluse," he said.
He often played computer games for more than six hours a day. Once he had finished looking through job search sites and brushing up his resume, he spent the rest of his day watching TV, surfing the net or fidgeting with his mobile phone.
"I felt I had become useless in society. There seemed to be no end to this tunnel," he recalls. He finally took on a one-year contract position because he was afraid that he might end up trapped in his room forever.
Experts believe the number of reclusive Koreans could grow even further. Kim Jung-sook at the National Youth Policy Institute said, "As it takes longer and longer to find work, young Koreans could end up losing self-confidence and shunning others and find themselves socially isolated."