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30-somethings drive Korean consumption, culture: report

June 13, 2012 - 19:47 By Korea Herald
Korean people in their 30s, who were born in the 1970s and went to college in the 1990s, are the key generation leading mainstream Korean culture and consumption markets, a private think tank said in a report.

Dubbed the “397 generation,” those in their 30s took up the largest portion in contributing to the sales of local department stores with 31.2 percent in 2010, followed by those in their 40s at 27.6 percent, the report by the LG Economic Research Institute said.

Meeting the needs of the largest customer group, department stores that operate culture centers reduced singing classes targeted at the 40-50 year age groups and expanded cosmetics programs for women in their 30s and cooking classes for men of the same age, it said.

The 30-somethings also topped online book market sales with 37.3 percent in 2011, followed by the 40-somethings with 31.3 percent, it said.

According to Statistics Korea, the population of the 30s age group reached 7.79 million as of the end of 2010, the second largest after 8.2 million in their 40s. Among those in their 30s, 29 percent are not married.
Shoppers at a department store in Seoul. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

Analyzing 2010-2011 statistics, the LGERI report found that those in their 30s have a “flexible” attitude towards marriage and family.

The largest portion, 41 percent, of the 30-something respondents said marriage was “a matter of choice,” while only 36 percent of the 20-something group and 35 percent of the 40-something group thought so.

“The perspectives on family of those in their 30s, putting more importance on practical life than tradition, can be a significant factor in the change of Korean society,” Park Jung-hyun, a senior researcher at the LGERI, said in the report.

The report also said those in their 30s seek more work-life balance than other age groups.

While the 30-something group was most stressed out because of work with 79 percent experiencing work stress, only 52 percent of them said they prioritized work over other matters. People in their 40s and 50s put more importance on work with 53.9 percent and 54.2 percent, respectively.

Other noticeable aspects of the 30s age group include a skeptical view on the possibility of climbing up the social ladder with 64 percent seeing a low possibility, and 50 percent were anxious towards today’s society, thinking that it has become more “dangerous” than five years ago.

The LGERI also conducted a survey to learn key trends in the lifestyle of the 397 generation.

The 397 generation had relatively low interest in fashion, the report said. A majority at 63 percent said they preferred comfortable clothes to those for showing off. Only 33 percent said fashion represented one’s social status and intelligence.

Those in their 30s also showed much interest in spending money on gourmet food. Forty-eight percent of the 30-something age group, the highest among all the age groups, said they did not think their money was wasted on expensive food.

“What companies should pay attention to is that those in their 30s are able to enjoy consumption. While the previous generation tended to think saving was the best, the current 30-somethings enjoy consumption in various fields including food, culture and leisure,” Park said.

By Kim Yoon-mi (