Search up the name “Lee Mukdol” on Google Images and one may be surprised to find the lack of pertinent results. Lee hardly reveals his face on interviews, whether on film or in camera.
His philosophy is that he wants his works to be assessed and read in their own right, without it being attributed to himself as a person, his appearance or anything other than the work itself. But read his work, and one can dive right into the kind of messages he is trying to transmit. Unlike his facial anonymity, his words are direct, clear and easy to grasp.
Generational conflict or stereotyping has been such a hot topic that publishers have been quick to print out a slew of related works in recent years. One such work is Lim Hong-tek's Generation Y are Coming, a description of newly recruited people in their 90s, and how older generations should manage them effectively.
While Generation Y are coming is a book written by a human resources director at the Korean conglomerate,Lee's work is a collection of personal firsthand accounts recounted by the writer as he ventures through his twenties. In some was the latter is a response to the generational survey expressed in the former.
Lee is almost a representative for twenty-something year olds in the ongoing intergenerational dialogue.
In his recent book So, Us the Galapagos Generation published in April, Lee delves into a critical self-evaluation of himself and the generation that he identifies with.
“The Galapagos is an archipelago with a biological particularity – even though the islands are floating in the same waters each one has a very distinct ecosystem from another,” Lee said. “Millennials are like islands in a sense that their stories, background, and understanding of each other is so different from one another.”
Lee’s experiencing of founding his own startup, The Review Republic,a platform where writers can freely share their works. consolidated his perception of millennials as the Galapagos generation. He described it as the “YouTube of writers”.
“My hometown friends and work colleagues are such different people despite the fact that they are bound by the same age bracket," Lee said.
“For instance, I would mention games such as League of Legends with my friends from home whereas my colleagues and I would be talking about how stock indexes are fluctuating.”
Seeing and feeling the evident difference in background and interests between the people he encountered, Lee could not stop thinking about how members of his generation were drifting apart from each other, as though they were islands. The millennials, according to Lee, are alone but together, similar in some respects but not similar enough to be grouped into one standardized identity – perhaps the first of generations to be utterly divisive within itself. It is for this reason that the generation finds it so difficult to create a uniform voice in a dialogue addressing other generations.
When asked what he thinks of phrases such as “YOLO” or “flex” Lee expressed a sense of deep remorse.
YOLO, an acronym for ‘You Only Live Once’ is used globally to denote a lifestyle to live life to its fullest extent, even behaving in ways that may sometimes be risky. Similarly, flex describes the consumeristic action of saving up to spend on a particularly wanted but heavily priced item, such as a much sought-after limited edition pair of sneakers.
“It's sad that our generation's topmost priorities have come down to the showing off of one's economic capabilities - what happened to ideals, the celebration of ideas, of talking dreams?" Lee questioned.
He further went on to claim that youth in ‘developed’ countries may reach the conclusion that they should pursue their own happiness, feeling that what they can achieve in the current society is limited.
“Since modern society has advanced so much, people are no longer concerned about material deprivation anymore,” Lee said. “Society has lost its vitality and energy to achieve additional success.”
Despite his success as a writer of more than nine books, Lee does not want any of his works to become bestsellers out of the fear that it would lead him to think less of his craft, or to strive harder for his next work. He would begin to hate his job as a writer due to the pressures of trying to produce best sellers.
“It does not mean that the book will be most read if it is a great book,” Lee said. “Nor does it mean that the book is great if it is the best seller.”