Young Korean ‘Kangaroo Tribes’ Growing

New York City’s high cost of living is driving some young Korean-Americans back home to live with their parents. (Photo via Pixabay, Creative Commons license)

Yoon, a Korean in her 60s with a son who graduated from a graduate school in New York State, has a problem she can’t tell anyone. Yoon’s concern is her son who is a member of the so-called “kangaroo tribe,” which is a term for young people who depend on their parents financially. Her son has been unemployed for five years since graduation. Yoon said: “It only took my son three or four months to come back to our home. After graduation, he started working at an unsatisfying company and he ended up quitting his job, saying he could no longer pay for rent and student loans with his low wages.” She added: “Since then, he hasn’t even thought of getting married or moving out, making me feel frustrated.”

Park, a Korean who got a job at a bank in Manhattan after graduating from a university located in New York State, recently moved into his parents’ house where he used to live. Originally, right after he started working, he got a new studio near downtown to live alone because of a long commute between his parents’ home and his workplace. However, he couldn’t help but return home, as he realized that he spent more than half of his income on expensive rent and meals. Park said: “The joy of independence from my parents was short-lived and I faced my financial problem immediately. The rent is too expensive. I also need to pay for utilities and student loans. Independent living is nothing but a fantasy for young people.”

As these cases show, “kangaroo tribes” in the Korean community are getting larger in the New York area. Even when they graduate from college and get a job, these young adults have to live off and depend on their parents financially.

In the past, a “kangaroo tribe” was more likely to refer to young people who depend on their parents because they can’t get a job and make money even though they have graduated from universities. But, nowadays, it more often refers to young people who live off their parents because, even if they get a job, they need to save their money, and are struggling to pay rising rents and a high cost of living.

According to 2018 data from the Korean Family Counseling and Research Center, in Flushing, there have been 18 cases of counseling for Korean “kangaroo tribe” members and their families last year.

Among those, there are 14 cases in which young people live with their parents while they are working and there are only four cases of young people who are unemployed. In the worst case, an unemployed young person tried to stab his parents with a knife, blaming them for his unemployment.

The center said that the three factors of low income, student loans, and expensive rent result in an increasing number of kangaroo tribe members.

Regina Kim, the director of the center, said: “Parents need to make an effort to guide their children to achieve financial independence rather than give their children whatever they want.” She added: “For young people, who just took their first step into the job market, it is important to lower their expectations and build a career at a small company if they have difficulties in getting a job.”

[The Korean Family Counseling and Research Center reports that out of a total of 725 cases of counseling, there were 209 cases of marital conflict, accounting for 29 percent of the total. Among the contents of the dispute, there were 46 cases of counseling on family issues, followed by 27 cases of spouse extramarital affairs, 26 cases of divorce, 24 cases of psychological abuse, and 19 cases of physical abuse.]


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