Hell Joseon, Hell Chosun or Hell Korea (Korean: 헬조선) is a satirical South Korean term that became popular around 2015. The term is used to criticize the socioeconomic state of South Korea.[1] The term is particularly popular among younger Korean generations, due to their sentiment around unemployment and working conditions in modern society.[2][3]


The phrase is a mixture of the words "Hell" and "Joseon", meaning that "(South) Korea is a hellish, hopeless society". It was used mainly within the internet, but was later adopted by mass media.[4]


The phrase "Hell Joseon" was first used around 2009 as an expression of homophobia[clarification needed] on a few community sites. Then, when the KBS TV drama Jeong Do-jeon was aired in 2014, it became widely used as a teasing word for Jeong Do-jeon fans on DC Inside.[5] However, it has been used for complaints about government policies such as youth unemployment, economic inequality, excessive working time, inability to escape from poverty no matter how hard one worked, society that only works for vested interests, or irrationality in daily life.[6] The use of this term has increased through social-networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook, and it spread rapidly in September 2015.[7]


The reason the phrase "Hell Joseon" spread is that people think that there is an overall inequality in South Korea.[8]


South Korea is currently operating a compulsory drafting system as part of its truce with North Korea. Therefore, one of the duties of the public is to serve in the South Korean millitary. The present military service period is 1 year and 9 months.[9] Conscripted Koreans spend a lot of time disconnected from society. Even in the obligation of military service, there is inequality caused by social class. Therefore, there are Koreans who will try to avoid doing military service. This complaint has created an issue of draft dodging.[10] People began to use their external powers to gain exemptions or to go to a comfortable place for a comfortable life.[10] Entertainers were applied as life-friendly entertainers, and the rich men manipulated documents for exemption using their money.[11]

Academic/location central communityEdit

In South Korea, most people go to college because there is an implicit rule that it will be difficult for one to get a job if he/she did not go to college.[12] There is a reason for this. There is a strong organizational culture in South Korea related to universities and academic institutions or hometown. For example, the power of this organizational culture acts when interviewing to enter the workplace. If people with the same conditions are interviewed, they will be accompanied by someone from the same school and hometown as the interviewer. This culture exists within the company. People who are not from special schools are discriminated against and culled.[13] This causes inequality and causes dissatisfaction among people. Within the company, people from the same school or from the same region come together to form a faction.[14]

Vertical class cultureEdit

There was a Confucian culture in Korea that honored the upper man from old days. This Confucian culture spread throughout the Korean society. This has also affected the organizational culture.[15] However, the culture that honored the upper adult was transformed into a bad culture of the subordinate. This may be the result of economic efficiency and the influence of military class society.

High population densityEdit

The population density of Korea is 519 people/km2. The population density of Seoul is very dense, which is about 16,593 people/km2.[16] This level of population causes poverty for many as well as having to compete endlessly. Eventually, many people abandon their hopes for marriage (known as the Sampo generation) as they cannot afford to support a family.[17]

Cultural influenceEdit

In 2015, the release of a South Korean film called Hell Joseon filled theaters.[18] On 3 September 2015, DC Inside opened the Hell Joseon Gallery.[19] Since September 2015, the exposure of the phrase increased considerably online.[20] In addition, Dish Inside users can express the oppressed complaints of young people, such as creating a new game called Burum Marble, in a humorous way like games.[21]


Critics say "the surplus man who does nothing tells the story of Hell Joseon".[22] It is also pointed out that the phrase itself is caused by dissatisfaction with society's inequality or absurdity, but it is also problematic in that it does not actually expect any political projections.[23] Lee-er-young said, "The countries that want to leave the Hell Joseon are not heaven." The present employment and the polarization are a global phenomenon, which is the result of the development of information technology.[24]

Park Geun-hye, former president of South Korea, said "There are a growing number of new words that deny our great modern history and disparage our world that is envied as a place to live" as a way of criticizing the trend of the phrase "Hell Joseon." She added, "Self-depreciation, pessimism, distrust and hatred can never be the driving force of change and development".[25] However, there was opinion that Park Geun-hye's government should think about why the phrase "Hell Joseon" was born, because the term was coined during her presidency.[26]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Lashing out at "Hell Joseon", young'uns drive ruling party's election beatdown". english.hani.co.kr. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  2. ^ Fifield, Anna (2016-01-30). "Young South Koreans call their country 'hell' and look for ways out". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  3. ^ hermes (2018-01-07). "South Korea's young lament inequality in their society". The Straits Times. Retrieved 2019-11-27.
  4. ^ "나라 탓하는 '헬조선'…부모 탓하는 '흙수저'". hankyung.com (in Korean). 2015-10-04. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  5. ^ "[기타뉴스][헬조선외전①] 헬조선은 극우들의 혐오언어일까?" (in Korean). 2015-09-16. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  6. ^ "최신 영상 | 연합뉴스". 연합뉴스 (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  7. ^ "청년의 상실감이 만들어낸 온라인 유행어 '헬조선'". KBS 뉴스 (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  8. ^ "[전성원의 사람냄새] 헬조선을 만든 사람들". 인천일보 (in Korean). 2017-10-23. Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  9. ^ "군 복무기간 21개월로 '동결'" (in Korean). 2010-12-21. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  10. ^ a b ""고위층·고소득자 병역기피 특별관리"". KBS 뉴스 (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  11. ^ '실형', 병역기피위해 가짜진단서 만든 의사 (2017-09-13). "병역기피위해 가짜진단서 만든 의사 '실형'". 서울경제 (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-06.
  12. ^ "[청년 리포트] ⑦ 대학 대신 내 길 갔지만…"고졸로 살기 쉽지 않아요"". KBS 뉴스 (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  13. ^ "학연, 지연, 인맥이라는 그들만의 리그 - ㅍㅍㅅㅅ". ppss.kr (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  14. ^ "기업 10곳 중 7곳, 학연 지연에 따른 라인(파벌) 존재해". 벤처스퀘어 (in Korean). 2011-08-31. Retrieved 2017-11-27.
  15. ^ "한국의 유교". 위키백과, 우리 모두의 백과사전 (in Korean). 2016-10-31.
  16. ^ "국가지표체계". www.index.go.kr (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  17. ^ "[표지이야기]연애도 결혼도 출산도 포기한 '삼포세대'" (in Korean). 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  18. ^ "영화가 본 2015 대한민국은 '헬조선'". 한국일보 (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  19. ^ "자국비하 게시판 왜 만들지…헬조선갤 개설 어리둥절". news.kmib.co.kr. Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  20. ^ 현혜란 (2015-09-18). "<빅데이터 돋보기> 청년의 상실감이 만들어낸 유행어 '헬조선'". 연합뉴스 (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  21. ^ ""현실반영 어마무시" Korea 부루마블 '씁쓸' [20대뉴스]". news.kmib.co.kr. Retrieved 2017-11-20.
  22. ^ "아무일도 안 하며 '헬조선' 불만 댓글…'잉여'인간 160만명으로 급증" (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  23. ^ "[이택광의 왜?]망한민국" (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  24. ^ "대한민국이 '헬조선?' 그럼 어느나라가 천국? - 경북도민일보". www.hidomin.com (in Korean). Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  25. ^ 강건택 (2016-08-15). "'헬조선' 정면비판한 朴대통령, 신산업창출·노동개혁에 강조점". 연합뉴스 (in Korean). Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  26. ^ "[비하인드 뉴스] '헬조선' 신조어 대신 '노오력'을?". news.jtbc.joins.com (in Korean). 2016-08-15. Retrieved 2019-03-31.

External linksEdit