At one time, South Korea accounted for more than one-quarter of the world’s cryptocurrency trades. In fact, many digital assets proved so popular in South Korea that they often sold for considerably higher numbers on Korean exchanges that they did in the U.S., Europe or the rest of Asia.
Today, these prospects have seemingly dissipated as South Korea has become another country ravaged by the drop off in bitcoin and related altcoins that have occurred over the past 13 months. Many of South Korea’s young people became unhealthily obsessed and addicted to cryptocurrencies, largely those with little to no economic means. They had dead-end jobs that offered few opportunities for growth and promotion, and their living situations were weak, to say the least.
A new term has emerged to describe this young group of people. They’re referred to as “dirt spoons,” and they’ve suffered some heavy losses thanks to bitcoin and digital currencies.
A Sad Story to Tell
Among these dirt spoons is 27-year-old Kim Ki-won, who still lives with his parents and claims to have lost tens of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrencies. Interestingly, Ki-won has not come forward to tell his parents of his previous obsession with cryptocurrencies, and at one point, he was spending over $1,000 a month simply on trivial desires. He has bought and sold thousands of units of coins, and when his trades continued to go positively, he quit his job and planned to buy a house, but his plans fell through once 2018 rolled in.
“I don’t think it’s fair that people call it gambling, but there are elements of truth here and there.”
Kim Ki-won, Image from NYT
Here’s Another for You
Ki-won’s story isn’t anything new. In fact, several young people within South Korea have similar tales to tell, but what’s interesting is how many are still looking to cryptocurrencies to strike it rich. Despite the falling prices, South Korea is the third-largest market for digital assets after the U.S. and Japan. Nearly $7 billion in crypto was traded last month, all of which occurred without the backing of a central financial institution.
23-year-old Kim Han-gyeol has a similar story to Ki-won. At one point, she was trading digital currencies on a regular basis. She was able to purchase a nice wardrobe for both herself and her mother and planned to use her remaining stash to open a coffee shop. Tragically, she has since lost most of her earnings and her dream of being an entrepreneur is on hiatus.
“I felt a sense of shame when I lost my money on bitcoin investments – not once but twice because of my greed to make a fortune in one go.”
Nowhere to Run
Despite this ugly turn, Han-gyeol says that she’s “sticking” to digital currencies as there’s “nowhere else to go” to recover her losses. She also comments that even though cryptocurrencies have completely tanked, many young people remain entrenched in crypto trades because “there is no true opportunity in South Korea for the average young person.”
At the time of writing, Han-gyeol works at a Dunkin’ Donuts shop. She studies English at night while living with her parents.
The Harsh Reality
Working prospects are virtually non-existent for many young job seekers in South Korea. The highest paying jobs are usually found in the government or in family-owned corporations, of which South Korea only hosts a small handful. In addition, it is often difficult to land positions with these ventures, as degrees from very prestigious universities are often required, and these schools can be very difficult to access granted one does not possess the funds.
In addition, unemployment among younger generations stands at nearly 11 percent, and has remained there for virtually five years. Many young people are unable to gain access to business loans and appropriate stocks, which is why they remain in crypto despite its lowly prospects as of late.