The MZ Generation in Korea, which includes both Millennials and Generation Z, represents a significant portion of the population. This article provides an overview of the MZ Generation, highlighting their characteristics, preferences, and impact on various aspects of society in Korea.
The MZ Generation, comprising Millennials and Generation Z, shares many similarities. Both groups have grown up in a digital era, with technology playing a central role in their lives. They are technologically fluent, diverse, socially conscious, and actively engaged in issues such as social justice and climate change. These generations have also faced economic downturns and uncertainty during their transition into adulthood, including events like the IMF Crisis, the 2008 financial crisis, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
In terms of population size, Millennials (aged 25-39) and Generation Zers (aged 15-24) accounted for approximately 32% of the total population in South Korea, totaling around 16,960,000 individuals, according to Statistics Korea data from the end of 2019.
It's important to note that generational labels in Korea may differ from those in the United States. While Generation Z is typically defined as individuals born between 1997 and 2012 in the US, in Korea, some sources suggest that this cohort may have ended as early as 2005. Despite these differences, Korean Millennials and Generation Z share many similarities, with a relatively small technology gap compared to their global counterparts, making them appear trendier and more tech-savvy.
The MZ Generation in Korea exhibits distinct living arrangements. Data from the National Statistical Office shows that the percentage of single-person households is highest among individuals in their 20s (35.5%) and 30s (27.7%). Over 50% of singles between the ages of 20 and 45 still live with their parents, often referred to as the "Kangaroo tribe" due to their financial dependence. Homeownership is relatively low, with only 12.7% of MZers owning homes. The remaining individuals participate in the unique Korean housing rental system known as "Jeonse" (39.1%) or are renters (30.3%). On average, single-person households spend $230 USD per month on housing expenses (approximately 300,000 KRW).
Education holds significant importance for the MZ Generation in Korea. A large percentage (69.3%) of Korean Millennials hold college degrees, and the average annual university tuition fee is $5,204 USD (approximately 6,763,000 KRW). Notably, 28.9% of individuals finance their education through student loans.
In terms of employment, the statistics indicate that the employment rate for college-educated Millennials in 2022 was the lowest reported rate at 65.1%.
When it comes to income and saving, employees under the age of 40 in Korea earn an average monthly income of $2,692 USD (approximately 3,500,000 KRW). The MZ Generation has a reported savings rate of 36.5%, reflecting a relatively high propensity to save. Furthermore, a savings bank report suggests that 35% of loans are taken out by the MZ generation.
MZers in Korea share similar brand preferences. They value transparency and authenticity, expecting brands to align with their values and cater dynamically to their preferences. In response, many companies have revised their marketing strategies to better connect with this important demographic group.
The MZ Generation in Korea exhibits distinct spending behavior. They embrace a "Meaning-out lifestyle" and a "Flex consumption culture." They prioritize experiences, unique products, and luxury goods as a means of expressing their individuality and status. With a high disposable income and a strong inclination toward digital and mobile purchases, they have driven the growth of e-commerce and mobile commerce in Korea. This has influenced various sectors to cater to their preferences, such as adopting sustainable and ethical practices in the fashion and beauty industries, as well as offering healthy and eco-friendly options in the food industry.
However, alongside the "flex" consumption trend, there is a growing phenomenon known as "jjantech," which refers to frugal consumption and money-saving investments. As the inflation rate increases, individuals in Korea are adopting cost-conscious consumption habits to maximize their savings. For instance, people are skipping breakfast and making use of whatever is available in their refrigerators to reduce food expenses. In the coffee industry, customers are gravitating towards lower-priced brands. They also utilize mobile app rewards, coupons, or "gifticons" (gift coupons) to purchase products at discounted prices.
Social media plays a significant role in the lives of the MZ Generation in Korea. KakaoTalk is the most widely used social media service, followed by YouTube, Naver Cafe, Instagram, Band, Facebook, Naver Blog, and Daum Cafe. Social media preferences vary across age groups, with Instagram being popular among those in their 20s, Naver Cafe among those in their 30s and 40s, and Naver Band among those in their 50s and 60s. Other platforms like Twitter and Kakao Story also have varying usage rates across different age groups.
South Korea faces challenges related to declining marriage and birth rates, and the MZ Generation, often referred to as the "give-up generation," is affected by these trends. Many individuals are choosing to delay or forgo milestones like marriage, having children, and homeownership due to high unemployment rates and soaring real estate prices. Single-person households have become the largest household type in the country.
The MZ Generation in Korea values personal success, which encompasses achieving a healthy work-life balance, financial stability, independence, maintaining relationships, and practicing self-care. They prioritize diversity, stability, and their own needs and values in both personal and professional lives.
While the MZ Generation in Korea is aware of Korean traditions and conservative societal principles, they strive to balance tradition with their own values. They value individual freedom, fairness, transparency, and often express disappointment in the government's ability to create such a society. They are vocal about their needs and opinions, and their political actions are expected to continue influencing the future. The succeeding generation shows less respect for tradition and appears more self-centered.
In conclusion, the MZ Generation in Korea, comprising Millennials and Generation Z, is a significant demographic group with distinct characteristics, preferences, and behaviors. Their impact on various aspects of society, from consumer habits to social media usage, cannot be overlooked. As they continue to shape the cultural landscape, it is crucial for businesses and institutions to understand and adapt to their needs and values.