Spoon class theory

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Spoon class theory
Hangul 수저계급론
Revised Romanization Sujeo Gyegeumnon
McCune–Reischauer Sujŏ Gyegŭmnon

The Spoon Class Theory refers to the idea that individuals in a country can be classified into different socioeconomic classes based on the assets and income level of their parents, and as a consequence, one's success in life depends entirely on being born into a wealthy family. The term appeared in 2015 and was first widely used among online communities in South Korea.[1]


The theory is thought to originate from the well-known English idiom "born with a silver spoon in one's mouth". In the past, European nobility often used silver dishes, and children were fed by nannies using silver spoons, which indicated the wealth of the family. In South Korea, this idea was taken further to establish several categories to classify individuals based on their family's wealth.

Spoon classes

The spoon classes have been identified as follows:

  • The gold spoon – within top 1% of population, with more than $200K annual salary and more than $2 million in assets.
  • The silver spoon – within top 3% of population, with $100K ~ $200K annual salary and $1 ~ $2 million in assets.
  • The bronze spoon – within top 10% of population, with $50K ~ $100K annual salary and $500K ~ $1 million in assets.
  • The plastic spoon – those with less than $20K annual salary and less than $100K in assets.
  • The dirt spoon – those with less than $10K annual salary and less than $50K in assets.

Sociological analysis

Hyo Chan Cho, the author of hyper-reality shock, explained that the meaning of gold spoon, which is common in Korea's society, "is related to Jean Baudrillard's simulacrum". He suggested that the gold spoon is included in a simulacrum that doesn't have an origin. Issues of gold spoon celebrities and commercials which made those people idealize changed nonexistence as existence. Regardless of the pros and cons of a gold spoon, it became an important image of their life. He further stated that as our society accepted images like gold spoon which became a hyperreality. We accept media's reproducing images that don't have originals as more than an existence. ‘Simulacrum' means an image without substance, it wields strong influence than an existence.[2]

Young adults preparing for significant life changes such as college, marriage or employment are concerned that they are at a disadvantage. For example, many corporations in Korea require stellar academic performance and for applicants to speak English fluently. Individuals who come from the upper class can advance themselves due to the wealth and power that their parents or family possess. Young people who come from the middle and lower class are at a disadvantage because often they are expected to work and attend school, coupled with the fact that they are not being provided with the same monetary support as their wealthier peers. This economic polarization not only influences employment but also affects other things like marriage. The causes of inequality in this society are economic and the fact that poverty is passed from generation to generation. This inequality is creating new classes in Korean society. However, some people overcome their parent's low economic class. Some people who were raised in wealthy families criticize this as well. Unfairness in Korean society is becoming a burden for young adults and is making the Korean society similar to the one described in the spoon class theory.[3]


In the 1980s, the share of assets contributed by gifts and inheritance was 27%, age groups spanning 19 to 75 years old: 181 men born between 1940 and 1959, the generation of industrialization; 593 men born between 1960 and 1974, the generation of democracy; and 568 men born between 1975 and 1995, the information generation.[citation needed]

The results of the poll found that the spoon class theory not only existed in Korea but deepened with each successive generation. The study showed that the persistence of poverty across generations has deepened, with 50.7 percent in the youngest generation answering that both father and son were in the lower class – an increase of almost 15 percent from the 36.4 percent who answered the same in the democracy generation.[citation needed]

In the oldest generation, only 35.9 percent answered that both father and son were considered in the lower class.[4]


In 2015, Korean society entered into a new class era as inequality increased.[citation needed] According to Global Attitudes Survey conducted by Pew Research Center, Korean citizens answered that the most threatening thing for them is inequality. However, the conclusion that inequality has a similar effect for all cultures should not be automatically assumed, since at least "8 other countries were content with inequality", including Greece. In contrast, Japan answered that nuclear weapons and radioactivity are most threatening. The results of this survey shows that the awareness of inequality is much higher than nuclear accidents and environmental pollution.[citation needed]


The suspected unqualified admission of Chung Yoo-ra to Ewha University is an example of nut rage.[clarification needed] Chung Yoo-ra is a South Korean female dressage rider. She competed in the 2014 Asian Games, where she won a team gold medal. She is the daughter of Choi Sun-sil, who was a central figure in the 2016 South Korean political scandal. She is suspected of unqualified admission to the Ewha University.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ 현실, 한국은 신계급사회로 가고 있다, Kyunghang Shinmun
  2. ^ [Son of mother's friend' and ‘Gold Spoon': to deconstruct the class discourse and rewriting stories of parents-children on modern society], ‘엄친아'에서_‘금수저'까지_현대사회의_계급담론을_해체하고_부모자녀의_이야기_다시_쓰기 Kim, Min Hwa, Shinhan University, 2016, p. 21.
  3. ^ [소태영(Tate Young So), "‘수저계급론' 논쟁의 중심에 선 한국 청년들의 열등감(inferiority) 극복을 위한 영성교육", 기독교교육정보/50(-), 2016, 119-153, 한국기독교교육정보학회]
  4. ^ Socioeconomic disparities intensifying: report, The Korea Joongang Daily.

External links

  • ""It Is Fortunate That I Wasn't Born as a Korean," Ex-Japanese Envoy to Seoul Says in Column - Masatoshi Muto Stirs Controversy in South Korea". The Seoul Times. 
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