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Shibal Biyong and Tangjinjaem August 9, 2019

Posted by nrhatch in Happiness, Life Balance, Mindfulness, People.
22 comments

What’s Shibal Biyong?

It’s a “fuck it expense” ~ an unnecessary indulgence that keeps you from giving up entirely.  The expression originated in South Korea in 2016:

[I]n South Korea, a generation of frustrated young people is reclaiming the idea of frivolous expenses—from cab rides to expensive sushi—as a psychological survival tool dubbed shibal biyong.

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A shibal biyong is an expense that might seem unnecessary but that helps you get through a bad day. It’s the $20 you splurge for a cab home instead of taking the subway after you’ve been denied a promotion or the comforting but expensive sushi you buy after you’ve been berated by your boss. The term implies that you might as well make yourself happy right now because your prospects in the long term seem bleak. Buy that nice coat, because you’ll never get on the housing ladder. Eat that steak, because you’ll never save up enough to retire.

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Inequality and a sense of economic despair have taken a fierce toll on South Koreans’ mental health. Nearly half of all deaths among South Koreans in their 20s are due to suicide, compared with just under 1 in 5 Americans of the same age. The country’s overall suicide rate was the highest among OECD countries from 2003 to 2016.

The title of a recent South Korean bestselling book, I Want to Die, but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki (spicy rice cakes), captures the essence of shibal biyong.

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If South Korean millennials are squandering their money, it’s not because they’ve lost touch with reality. Quite the opposite: For many of them, short-term consumption has become a rational choice maximizing the utility of money based on a realistic assessment of the future.

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“Shibal biyong and tangjinjaem [squandering fun] are symbolic endeavors responding to social problems via individual consumption,” said Alex Taek-Gwang Lee, a professor at Kyung Hee University in Seoul. “As saving cannot guarantee the future, unlike in the past, the idea of investing in the present rather than the future gains strength.”

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Koreans have begun blowing their money not out of ignorance but out of common sense. A small pleasure now is better than a promised future contentment that will never come.

To read more:  Why Young Koreans Love to Splurge (Foreign Policy)

Aah . . . that’s better!