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  • Korea’s Genera­ti­on Internship 4.0


    Joerg Markowitsch

    The TV series "Misaeng: Incomplete Life" gives deep insights into South-Korea's working world and the difficult transition to get there.

    Korea has re-written film history in 2020. The film ‘Parasite’ by Bong Joon-ho was the first foreign language film to win an Oscar for best film. Until then, most people didn’t think that this was possible, because even for out­stan­ding foreign language movies the “Foreign Oscar” was highest accolade. ‘Parasite’ is a bitterly angry cinematic criticism of the growing ine­qua­li­ty within Korean society: drama, horror, thriller, comedy, satire. Genre-breaking, inno­va­ti­ve, ingenious.

    Another unclas­si­fia­ble series picking up ine­qua­li­ty as a central theme is, ‘Misaeng: Incom­ple­te Life’ (Korea, 2014), which has won several awards and has been extremely suc­cess­ful in Korea. It tells the story of young Geu-rae’s unusual entry — and pro­gres­si­on — into a large inter­na­tio­nal retail group. So far dependent on odd jobs to keep himself and his mother afloat, the young ‘Go’-nerd somehow manages to hold his own against other interns in the group. He only holds a regular school leaving cer­ti­fi­ca­te, while all the other interns have diplomas from renowned uni­ver­si­ties.  He doesn’t speak English, all others speak several foreign languages fluently. The scene in the pilot film, for example, in which he is forced to asks his trainee colleague Young-yi non-verbally for help every time a customer calls him, because he doesn’t under­stand the inter­na­tio­nal callers, is very touchy. He literally drags her — without causing offense — to the phone, where she answers elo­quent­ly each time in a different foreign language.

    With his pro­noun­ced social com­pe­tence, he ulti­mate­ly succeeds in defying the super-hier­ar­chi­cal, ultra-discri­mi­na­to­ry and mega-com­pe­ti­ti­ve Korean office routine. When he, contrary to all expec­ta­ti­ons, is accepted into the sales team, you can even imagine yourself in a present-day movie fairy tale. However, as a whole the series is hard to classify: Social romance? Satire? Office comedy? Drama or docu­men­ta­ry? It’s a little bit of ever­ything, but in any case, a lot of insight into the recruit­ment practices and everyday madness of Korean companies is revealed. Those who are looking for illus­tra­ti­ve material of bullying by superiors, which is deeply rooted and accep­ta­ble in Korean everyday work culture, will find it here in every episode, dis­tur­bin­gly. Inci­dent­al­ly, the Koreans have invented for this purpose the neologism ‘Gapjil’ (the Japanese ‘Pawa-hara’ — from ‘Power Harr­as­se­ment’) and only recently passed a law against it.

    Refe­ren­ces:

    Misaeng: Incom­ple­te Life (2014), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4240730/

     

    Misaeng: Incomplete Life (2014), Trailer 

    Promotion Picture

    Site picture, the young Geu-rae's (Im Si-wan)

    Tags

    Korea’s Genera­ti­on Internship 4.0

    Joerg Markowitsch

    The TV series "Misaeng: Incomplete Life" gives deep insights into South-Korea's working world and the difficult transition to get there.

    Korea has re-written film history in 2020. The film ‘Parasite’ by Bong Joon-ho was the first foreign language film to win an Oscar for best film. Until then, most people didn’t think that this was possible, because even for out­stan­ding foreign language movies the “Foreign Oscar” was highest accolade. ‘Parasite’ is a bitterly angry cinematic criticism of the growing ine­qua­li­ty within Korean society: drama, horror, thriller, comedy, satire. Genre-breaking, inno­va­ti­ve, ingenious.

    Another unclas­si­fia­ble series picking up ine­qua­li­ty as a central theme is, ‘Misaeng: Incom­ple­te Life’ (Korea, 2014), which has won several awards and has been extremely suc­cess­ful in Korea. It tells the story of young Geu-rae’s unusual entry — and pro­gres­si­on — into a large inter­na­tio­nal retail group. So far dependent on odd jobs to keep himself and his mother afloat, the young ‘Go’-nerd somehow manages to hold his own against other interns in the group. He only holds a regular school leaving cer­ti­fi­ca­te, while all the other interns have diplomas from renowned uni­ver­si­ties.  He doesn’t speak English, all others speak several foreign languages fluently. The scene in the pilot film, for example, in which he is forced to asks his trainee colleague Young-yi non-verbally for help every time a customer calls him, because he doesn’t under­stand the inter­na­tio­nal callers, is very touchy. He literally drags her — without causing offense — to the phone, where she answers elo­quent­ly each time in a different foreign language.

    With his pro­noun­ced social com­pe­tence, he ulti­mate­ly succeeds in defying the super-hier­ar­chi­cal, ultra-discri­mi­na­to­ry and mega-com­pe­ti­ti­ve Korean office routine. When he, contrary to all expec­ta­ti­ons, is accepted into the sales team, you can even imagine yourself in a present-day movie fairy tale. However, as a whole the series is hard to classify: Social romance? Satire? Office comedy? Drama or docu­men­ta­ry? It’s a little bit of ever­ything, but in any case, a lot of insight into the recruit­ment practices and everyday madness of Korean companies is revealed. Those who are looking for illus­tra­ti­ve material of bullying by superiors, which is deeply rooted and accep­ta­ble in Korean everyday work culture, will find it here in every episode, dis­tur­bin­gly. Inci­dent­al­ly, the Koreans have invented for this purpose the neologism ‘Gapjil’ (the Japanese ‘Pawa-hara’ — from ‘Power Harr­as­se­ment’) and only recently passed a law against it.

    Refe­ren­ces:

    Misaeng: Incom­ple­te Life (2014), https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4240730/

     

    Misaeng: Incomplete Life (2014), Trailer

    Promotion Picture

    Site picture, the young Geu-rae's (Im Si-wan)

    Tags


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    About this blog

    By selecting a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. They are both based in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their cor­re­spon­ding articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.

    About this blog

    With picking a film or an image, this blog literally illus­tra­tes the vast sphere of work, employ­ment & education in an open collec­tion of academic, artistic and also anecdotal findings.

    About us

    Konrad Wakol­bin­ger makes docu­men­ta­ry films about work and life. Jörg Mar­ko­witsch does research on education and work. We both work in Vienna. Infor­ma­ti­on on guest authors can be found in their respec­ti­ve articles.

    More about

    Inte­res­ted in more? Find recom­men­da­ti­ons on relevant festivals, film collec­tions and lite­ra­tu­re here.