Photos: S. Korea’s young ‘Dirt Spoons’ lose faith in President Moon

Sparse rooms, barely a few square meters, in premises called goshi-won, were once mostly used by less well-off students to temporarily cut off from the outside world while they studied for civil service job tests. Changing trends have now turned them into increasingly permanent homes to young people in South Kora, who identify themselves among the "dirt spoons", those born to low-income families who have all but given up on social mobility.

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST 15 Photos
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Kim Jae-hoon drinks water as he sits in his cubicle, called a goshi-won, where he lives in Suwon, South Korea. Such sparsely furnished rooms, in premises called goshi-won, were previously mostly used by less well-off students to temporarily cut themselves off from the outside world while they studied for civil service job tests. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Kim Jae-hoon drinks water as he sits in his cubicle, called a goshi-won, where he lives in Suwon, South Korea. Such sparsely furnished rooms, in premises called goshi-won, were previously mostly used by less well-off students to temporarily cut themselves off from the outside world while they studied for civil service job tests. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Hwang Hyeon-dong in his 6.6-square-metre cubicle, called a goshi-won near his university campus which comes with a shared bathroom and kitchen plus all the rice he can eat, that he rents for 350,000 won ($302) a month. Cubicles are increasingly becoming permanent homes to young people like Hwang, who identifies himself among the “dirt spoons”, those born to low-income families who have all but given up on social mobility. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Hwang Hyeon-dong in his 6.6-square-metre cubicle, called a goshi-won near his university campus which comes with a shared bathroom and kitchen plus all the rice he can eat, that he rents for 350,000 won ($302) a month. Cubicles are increasingly becoming permanent homes to young people like Hwang, who identifies himself among the “dirt spoons”, those born to low-income families who have all but given up on social mobility. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Kim Jae-hoon walks past people waiting at a bus stop, as he makes his way to Kyung Hee University in Suwon. “If I try hard enough and get a good job, will I ever be able to afford a house?” said the 25-year-old, who lives in his small, cluttered room where clothes were piled on the bed. “Will I ever be able to narrow the gap that’s already so big?” (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Kim Jae-hoon walks past people waiting at a bus stop, as he makes his way to Kyung Hee University in Suwon. “If I try hard enough and get a good job, will I ever be able to afford a house?” said the 25-year-old, who lives in his small, cluttered room where clothes were piled on the bed. “Will I ever be able to narrow the gap that’s already so big?” (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Hwang Hyeon-dong eats with his father and grandmother at the family home in Guri. The concept of dirt spoons and gold spoons exploded onto the political scene in recent years, undercutting support for liberal President Moon Jae-in. Moon came to power in 2017 on a platform of social and economic justice. Yet halfway through his five-year term, he has little progress to show the country’s youth. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Hwang Hyeon-dong eats with his father and grandmother at the family home in Guri. The concept of dirt spoons and gold spoons exploded onto the political scene in recent years, undercutting support for liberal President Moon Jae-in. Moon came to power in 2017 on a platform of social and economic justice. Yet halfway through his five-year term, he has little progress to show the country’s youth. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Hwang checks his girlfriend’s resume in a cafe. Income disparity has instead widened since Moon took office, the top income bracket now earning 5.5 times the bottom one, compared with 4.9 times before his inauguration, official data shows. Hwang, a media studies student, said a corruption scandal surrounding former Justice Minister Cho Kuk was a wakeup call for dirt spoons who may have once believed in the hard work. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Hwang checks his girlfriend’s resume in a cafe. Income disparity has instead widened since Moon took office, the top income bracket now earning 5.5 times the bottom one, compared with 4.9 times before his inauguration, official data shows. Hwang, a media studies student, said a corruption scandal surrounding former Justice Minister Cho Kuk was a wakeup call for dirt spoons who may have once believed in the hard work. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Hwang Hyeon-dong has his hair cut before taking photos for his resume in Guri. Cho and his college professor wife were accused of using their positions to help their daughter gain admission to medical school in 2015. Cho acknowledged he was a gold spoon and a “Gangnam liberal” motivated by social justice, but the approach backfired and he stepped down in October after only a month in the post. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Hwang Hyeon-dong has his hair cut before taking photos for his resume in Guri. Cho and his college professor wife were accused of using their positions to help their daughter gain admission to medical school in 2015. Cho acknowledged he was a gold spoon and a “Gangnam liberal” motivated by social justice, but the approach backfired and he stepped down in October after only a month in the post. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Hwang and his mother shop for a suit ahead of a job interview in Guri. To many struggling youth, the scandal - which fuelled some of the largest protests of Moon’s term - showed how gold spoons get further ahead with the help of their parents’ status and wealth. In a September poll of 3,289 people by recruiting service provider Saramin, three-quarters of respondents said parents’ background was key to children’s success. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Hwang and his mother shop for a suit ahead of a job interview in Guri. To many struggling youth, the scandal - which fuelled some of the largest protests of Moon’s term - showed how gold spoons get further ahead with the help of their parents’ status and wealth. In a September poll of 3,289 people by recruiting service provider Saramin, three-quarters of respondents said parents’ background was key to children’s success. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Kim Jae-hoon makes his way to work in Suwon. To many struggling youth, the scandal - which fuelled some of the largest protests of Moon’s term - showed how gold spoons get further ahead with the help of their parents’ status and wealth. In a September poll of 3,289 people by recruiting service provider Saramin, three-quarters of respondents said parents’ background was key to children’s success. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Kim Jae-hoon makes his way to work in Suwon. To many struggling youth, the scandal - which fuelled some of the largest protests of Moon’s term - showed how gold spoons get further ahead with the help of their parents’ status and wealth. In a September poll of 3,289 people by recruiting service provider Saramin, three-quarters of respondents said parents’ background was key to children’s success. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Kim Jae-hoon clears a table at the pub where he works in Suwon. “I can’t complain that we have different starting lines,” said Kim Jae-hoon, 26, who also lives in a cubicle. “But it makes me angry that there are people who are getting help improperly. It’s OK that someone was studying when I had to be working, but the fact that they are getting improper help makes me angry.” (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Kim Jae-hoon clears a table at the pub where he works in Suwon. “I can’t complain that we have different starting lines,” said Kim Jae-hoon, 26, who also lives in a cubicle. “But it makes me angry that there are people who are getting help improperly. It’s OK that someone was studying when I had to be working, but the fact that they are getting improper help makes me angry.” (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Kim works as a part-time waiter at a bar near his school and gets by on 400,000 won a month for rent, food and allowances. Most meals are “cup rice” he prepares in the shared kitchen, menial fare of rice and basic toppings - eggs, half an onion and sauce. Young, low-income voters like Kim have deserted Moon in record numbers. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Kim works as a part-time waiter at a bar near his school and gets by on 400,000 won a month for rent, food and allowances. Most meals are “cup rice” he prepares in the shared kitchen, menial fare of rice and basic toppings - eggs, half an onion and sauce. Young, low-income voters like Kim have deserted Moon in record numbers. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Hwang Hyeon-dong poses for photographs which will be used for his resume. Support among voters aged 19 to 29 dropped from 90% in June 2017 to 44% by October, according to a poll by Gallup Korea.“President Moon’s been talking about equal opportunity, a level-playing field and justice. But, I feel a sense of betrayal because the current situation is far different from what he promised,” said Hwang, who voted for Moon. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Hwang Hyeon-dong poses for photographs which will be used for his resume. Support among voters aged 19 to 29 dropped from 90% in June 2017 to 44% by October, according to a poll by Gallup Korea.“President Moon’s been talking about equal opportunity, a level-playing field and justice. But, I feel a sense of betrayal because the current situation is far different from what he promised,” said Hwang, who voted for Moon. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Hwang Hyeon-dong looks at his mobile phone as he makes his way home on a bus. Older workers are also feeling the pinch as Moon tries to improve employment opportunities and social justice for young workers. In a televised town hall meeting last week, Moon conceded he had fallen short on those promises and said his declining support among youth was proof he had let them down. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Hwang Hyeon-dong looks at his mobile phone as he makes his way home on a bus. Older workers are also feeling the pinch as Moon tries to improve employment opportunities and social justice for young workers. In a televised town hall meeting last week, Moon conceded he had fallen short on those promises and said his declining support among youth was proof he had let them down. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Laundry hung up to dry in Kim Jae-hoon's cubicle. The idea of dirt and gold spoons has resonated in popular culture in recent years. The film “Parasite” by Bong Joon Ho about two families at the opposite ends of the social spectrum has been a smash hit, winning the Cannes Palme d’Or. Even the hit boyband BTS, tackles the social divide, singing “Don’t call me a spoon! I am just a human” in the song “Fire”. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Laundry hung up to dry in Kim Jae-hoon's cubicle. The idea of dirt and gold spoons has resonated in popular culture in recent years. The film “Parasite” by Bong Joon Ho about two families at the opposite ends of the social spectrum has been a smash hit, winning the Cannes Palme d’Or. Even the hit boyband BTS, tackles the social divide, singing “Don’t call me a spoon! I am just a human” in the song “Fire”. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Kim Jae-hoon takes a shower before going to bed in his cubicle. A popular fantasy digital cartoon called “Golden Spoon” featuring a poor boy swapping his family with his rich friend’s by eating with a magic gold spoon is set to be serialized as a TV drama. Gold spoons are now a hot gift item, replacing gold rings traditionally given to children on their first birthdays, wishing them a wealthy life. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Kim Jae-hoon takes a shower before going to bed in his cubicle. A popular fantasy digital cartoon called “Golden Spoon” featuring a poor boy swapping his family with his rich friend’s by eating with a magic gold spoon is set to be serialized as a TV drama. Gold spoons are now a hot gift item, replacing gold rings traditionally given to children on their first birthdays, wishing them a wealthy life. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST
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Kim Jae-hoon looks at his mobile phone before going to sleep. The fact that gold and dirt spoons are portrayed in popular culture in such a diverse range is reflective of the bitter hopelessness among the have-nots, said Kim Jong-min, the leader of civic group Youth Taeil, which supports young jobseekers and temporary workers. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

Kim Jae-hoon looks at his mobile phone before going to sleep. The fact that gold and dirt spoons are portrayed in popular culture in such a diverse range is reflective of the bitter hopelessness among the have-nots, said Kim Jong-min, the leader of civic group Youth Taeil, which supports young jobseekers and temporary workers. (Kim Hong-Ji / REUTERS)

UPDATED ON NOV 28, 2019 01:36 PM IST

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