For those younger folks in privileged portions of the arena, the pandemic used to be a possibility


SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA -- MARCH 17, 2021: Henry Jung works at a coffee store in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 17, 2021. College student Henry Jung is one of a growing number of young South Koreans betting on the stock market, even taking out large loans to add to their portfolio. Unlike their parents' generation, who banked on a long, stable career for their futures, many young South Koreans are instead looking for paydays in the stock market, generating a frenzy of novice investors that has some concerned about the implication for the larger economy. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Jung Gyu-ho, a faculty scholar who additionally labored section time at a espresso store, is without doubt one of the younger folks in privileged portions of the arena for whom the pandemic served as a possibility. Jung made cash all the way through the pandemic promoting face mask and making an investment within the inventory marketplace. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Jung Gyu-ho was a creative younger capitalist in the course of an epidemic.

South Korea used to be confronting an rising 2d wave of COVID-19 instances. An acquaintance of his father’s had pivoted his cosmetics manufacturing facility to churn out face mask that had been in massive call for. The guy requested Jung, 23, who had lately give up his semiconductor manufacturing facility task to return to college, to arrange a web based direct-to-consumer gross sales operation.

Jung already had a tidy sum within the inventory marketplace and used to be accumulating hire on an rental unit he owned whilst dwelling within the manufacturing facility dorms or together with his folks. Now, in only a month, the brand new masks industry had racked up greater than 400 million received in gross sales about $350,000.

“Am I going to be rich?” he idea.

The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated economies and gutted jobs around the evolved and creating global. The lack of financial alternatives has hit younger folks, much more likely to be hired in precarious sectors and in tenuous positions with fewer years’ revel in, some distance worse than older adults in solid jobs.

But the devastation hasn’t hit calmly. Although the unheard of shutdown and financial disruptions have plunged a lot of the arena’s deficient adolescence into direr straits, for younger folks in privileged areas, the cataclysmic adjustments wrought by means of the pandemic have introduced a unprecedented likelihood for a jump-start or spice up in entrepreneurship, funding and creativity. Much like COVID-19 vaccines with wealthy countries already providing booster photographs whilst deficient ones haven’t begun to offer maximum in their electorate a primary shot wealth and alternative have by no means extra obviously gave the impression a question of geographic lottery.

The very higher crust of the arena’s rich have dramatically higher their fortunes whilst a lot of the globe suffered. Many have at once profited from the disaster, reaping income in prescription drugs, trying out and vaccines. Services similar to Amazon, meals supply and streaming leisure corporations similar to Netflix have noticed an unheard of surge in call for.

Combined with governments pumping cash towards financial restoration, the ones developments have made the richest even richer. The ranks of the “ultra high net worth” folks with greater than $50 million to their identify has higher by means of 24%, the best building up in just about 20 years, in line with this 12 months’s Global Wealth Report by means of Credit Suisse. Billionaires have noticed their wealth balloon by means of 69%, in line with Oxfam.

In societies in East Asia, Europe or the U.S. with higher protection nets, extra powerful fiscal insurance policies and more potent employment protections, the younger have suffered some distance much less, or even controlled to higher their fortunes. Rich countries spent about $850 according to capita on pandemic social protections, and low-income nations spent simply $4, in line with the World Bank.

“The youth that are able to take advantage of what’s happened or able to get a foothold in that economic recovery tend to be those who are educated, more likely to adapt, in occupations that allow for telework,” mentioned Sher Verick, an economist on the International Labor Organization who’s head of the gang’s employment methods unit. “In countries where there’s poor access to internet, weak infrastructure, it’s that much harder to take advantage.”

The disparate fortunes rising from the pandemic foreshadow what is more likely to be, for these days’s younger adults, an entire life outlined by means of cascading crises through which prosperity would possibly ebb and waft. With local weather trade, expanding migration, the widening succeed in of man-made intelligence and disruptions from cryptocurrencies, NFTs or regardless of the subsequent technological upheaval is also, wealth and paintings promise to be way more complicated and difficult to navigate than for earlier generations. The pandemic used to be their first crucible; it would possibly not be their closing in an age when the younger would possibly frequently need to reinvent themselves.

Such anxieties over the longer term resonate in “Squid Game” a South Korean TV sequence that has turn into a Netflix sensation in its Darwinian exploration of wealth gaps and struggles to live to tell the tale even in a well-to-do country. The display’s dystopian charisma pits financially strapped characters in opposition to one some other in a perilous pageant weapons, a horrifying doll and tug-of-war over an abyss to win thousands and thousands of greenbacks. It speaks to accelerating inequalities and a realigning of the commercial order because the younger face narrowing possibilities of discovering good-paying jobs and reasonably priced properties, a lot much less riches.


Jung has dreamed of turning into wealthy in his phrases, “to make enough money to be disillusioned by capitalism” ever since his circle of relatives confronted monetary cave in.

When he used to be 13, his father’s cosmetics industry went bust. For a 12 months, he lived on my own in an rental the place past-due hire snowballed as his folks moved round dodging debt creditors. Because of his circle of relatives’s catch 22 situation, he gave up on faculty early, opting for to wait a specialised job-training highschool. At 18, he set to work at a Samsung semiconductor manufacturing facility, pulling swing shifts in head-to-toe cleanroom fits that would depart him soaking wet in sweat on the finish of the workday.

College student Jung Gyu-ho

Jung Gyu-ho, a faculty scholar, is one in every of a rising choice of younger South Koreans who guess large at the inventory marketplace to profit from the fluctuations all the way through the pandemic, even casting off massive loans so as to add to their portfolio. He additionally made cash promoting mask on-line amid a scarcity. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The $60,000 or so in beginning wage used to be an enviable sum, just about double the common annual wage for South Korea. But he wasn’t glad with simply drawing an revenue; he sought after to broaden different streams of money waft to multiply his wealth. He began a web based drop transport industry uploading and promoting girls’s clothes and intercourse toys from China, bringing in a few thousand a month. He started rising his investments within the inventory marketplace.

At the start of 2020, even though, Jung sought after to take a breather. He give up his task, wound down his on-line industry and determined to return to college.

Then the pandemic hit, and the capitalist ambitions he used to be making plans to position on dangle had been despatched into hyperdrive.

When the commercial uncertainties across the pandemic ended in a steep marketplace crash early closing 12 months, then briefly started convalescing simply as sharply, younger adults in South Korea flocked to retail making an investment in unheard of numbers. No longer seeing a forged long term or enlargement in conventional employment the best way their folks did, many started casting off huge loans to move all in at the inventory marketplace. “Scrape together everything, including your soul,” was the credo for plenty of younger traders.

Jung took out 40 million Korean received, about $35,000, in loans so as to add to his inventory marketplace investments.

Around the similar time, he introduced the net masks gross sales industry. South Korea noticed a run on mask within the first months of the pandemic, to a point the place the federal government rationed gross sales to 2 according to consumer a week. Jung started promoting them concerning the time the rustic’s 2d wave hit. Sales had been best that first month and settled at a decrease stage, however they was a gradual circulate of revenue, incomes him a number of thousand greenbacks every month with minimum effort.

Since the pandemic, Jung estimated, his internet price has grown by means of about 50%, even if he hasn’t been operating. Some of his pals raked in a lot more by means of making an investment in bitcoin or actual property, with way more dramatic value fluctuations, he mentioned. A few pals his age who went all in on the actual property marketplace are actually price between one million or two, he mentioned.

College student Jung Gyu-ho shows his stock portfolio through a smartphone app.

Jung Gyu-ho displays how he invests on-line via his smartphone in Seoul. For some folks in privileged portions of the arena like Jung, the cataclysmic adjustments attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic had been a window of alternative. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

“I think there’s always opportunity in change,” he mentioned. “The rich getting richer and poor getting poorer, it’s definitely worse for those of us now in their 20s and 30s than the generation before us.”

The hole unfolded by means of the pandemic would possibly finally end up being unattainable to bridge over their lifetimes, he mentioned, evaluating his lot with that of his friends who selected to visit faculty, and did not have the seed capital to profit from the inventory marketplace rally.

“The gulf is incredibly wide,” he mentioned. “I’m not sure an opportunity like this will ever come again.”


While Jung’s fortunes had been being buoyed by means of the marketplace crash and the masks frenzy, the worldwide run on bathroom paper used to be shaping as much as be a godsend for Oliver Elsoud’s younger industry in Germany.

The 37-year-old had give up his day task in 2016 and invested his financial savings, about 60,000 euros, right into a startup creating a product that he and his spouse known as “Happy Po” “Happy Rear End.”

The brightly coloured 11-inch-tall squeeze bottle shoots up a circulate of water. The invention used to be born when Elsoud skilled the advantages of the usage of water moderately than bathroom paper whilst touring the Middle East and Asia for a German instrument and electric provides corporate. It looked to be a much more hygienic, handy and eco-friendly selection to bathroom paper, and going again to wiping every time he returned domestic felt like regressing to the darkish ages.

Elsoud’s corporate slowly won traction after a exposure spice up from a German model of the funding pitch fact TV display “Shark Tank” known as “Lion’s Den” in 2017. But toilet behavior, he discovered, die laborious. Germans are heavy bathroom paper customers, the usage of extra according to capita than maximum evolved countries, 2d simplest to the U.S., the usage of about 33 kilos according to capita according to 12 months.

Last 12 months, as nations started shutting down after the onset of the pandemic, bathroom paper bought out briefly in panic purchasing. The makers of “Happy Po” additionally advertised as “bum shower” had been poised to step in to supply an alternate. Sales of the instrument briefly rose tenfold inside of a couple of brief weeks, to greater than 100,000 gadgets bought per thirty days.

The coronavirus took us to the following stage, Elsoud mentioned. Corona modified the whole lot for us. Everything took off in a single day. Demand went in the course of the roof. We touched the eras nerve.”

This February, a little over four years after he launched his start-up, he sold the company for several million euros to a larger firm.

Elsoud doesn’t think of himself as a “Krisengewinnler” German for “disaster profiteer” but simply thinks he was ready when the stars aligned and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity opened up.

“Things unquestionably went our method. Sure, we had been fortunate, however so had been different on-line companies,” he said. “You simply cant plan one thing like that taking place. Its all concerning the timing.

He grew up in a solidly middle-class family of Palestinian immigrants in southwest Germany. His father labored for the German carmaker Daimler-Benz, affording the circle of relatives the relaxation and safety of the rustic’s stalwart auto trade. Elsoud began out operating for a German instrument and electric provides corporate however was enticed by means of the promise of Friedrichshain, the once-gritty community of Berlin that has turn into a hotbed of leading edge start-ups.

He stays on the corporate after the sale as senior emblem supervisor. Even past the pandemic, he feels positive that the industry will proceed to burgeon particularly within the toilet-paper-loving U.S., the place he sees a huge horizon for enlargement, particularly amongst environmentally aware customers.

There are such a lot of arses in the market so the prospective is gigantic, he mentioned. We havent come as regards to seeing the total attainable tapped but.


If Elsoud used to be well-positioned to profit from the run on bathroom paper, for Daniel Thrasher in Los Angeles, it used to be folks’s confinement to their properties within the early days of the pandemic that proved a boon.

In early 2020, it were a 12 months because the actor give up his day task operating at a espresso store on La Brea Avenue to focal point complete time on his YouTube channel, that includes comedic sketches he writes and plays, frequently accompanied by means of his piano compositions. He’d grown his channel to one million subscribers, and secured sponsorships that ensured he’d be capable of make a gradual revenue.

YouTuber Daniel Thrasher

YouTuber Daniel Thrasher, 28, whose following just about tripled to two.7 million subscribers all the way through the pandemic, is proven at his domestic in Studio City. For Thrasher, who plays comedic skits whilst improvising at the piano, the isolation used to be an artistic boon in addition to a monetary spice up. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Before the pandemic, he’d been making plans a transfer to a quiet the town area close to the L.A. River to isolate himself and concentrate on his comedy. The stay-at-home order that went into impact in March 2020 strengthened that isolation and allowed the then-27-year-old to have one of the vital maximum ingenious months of his lifestyles. He improvised nonstop and offered various new characters to his movies, together with a making a song Satan, a songwriting cat and personified procrastination.

At the similar time, as folks had been being compelled to spend a lot in their time indoors and on the lookout for distractions, his subscribers just about tripled to two.7 million. His revenue jumped by means of a equivalent share. Other on-line content material creators he spoke to noticed equivalent will increase. In 2020, 81% of Americans mentioned they use YouTube, up from 73% in 2019, in line with Pew Research Center. Among Thrasher’s contemporaries, younger adults elderly 18 to 29, 95% mentioned they use the provider.

His sponsors, who he apprehensive can be scaling again, gave the impression much more desperate to renew their contracts with him at upper charges.

“There was more budgeting redirected toward the internet,” he mentioned. “The pandemic reinforced for everyone that the internet is where you want to spend your marketing dollars. They were scrambling to find creators to give these funds to.”

It used to be since COVID-19 that the wiry and moppy-haired performer with a cheeky grin began being known in the street a few times every week. He went from a one-person operation to a four-person group, hiring ingenious assistants and an editor to lend a hand run his channel. In July, he purchased a $2.1-million Studio City domestic; this 12 months, he anticipates he will make greater than one million for the primary time, he mentioned.

Because his folks are each healthcare employees, risking their very own lives to save lots of others all the way through the pandemic, he struggled emotionally when he began incomes greater than them, he mentioned.

He additionally is aware of the panorama of his trade is fickle. The pandemic minted a number of TikTok stars making brief movies of their bedrooms. When the stay-at-home orders lifted previous this 12 months and vaccines began changing into extra broadly to be had, Thrasher, together with different YouTubers, noticed their numbers slide.

YouTuber Daniel Thrasher at his piano

YouTuber Daniel Thrasher, 28, plays comedic skits whilst improvising at the piano. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

“There’s a lot more competition…. there’s an ocean of people arriving on YouTube,” he mentioned. “They’re coming to take over. I’m working as if I’m waiting for someone to take me down.”


Jung, now 24, does not know the way wealthy he will be one day. But he is mapping it out. He moved to Pleasant Hill in California in August to proceed faculty research he’d began on-line. He purchased a used Nissan Altima, and is paying for his training and dwelling bills via his masks gross sales revenue.

He’s finding out industry management, construction on his studies having run small gross sales operations and making an investment. He desires to paintings in consulting prior to sooner or later working his personal companies he is not certain in what however is aware of he does not need to be operating for any person else.

In the U.S., he has additionally encountered pals with a unique stage of wealth. Two fellow scholars he met in his first weeks got here from households with personal jets. The pandemic, he mentioned, had the impact of educating him simply how briefly the gulf between haves and have-nots is widening.

“I’m not sure I really realized before, money makes money,” he mentioned. “I think I understand capitalism a little better now.”

Kim reported from Seoul and Kirschbaum from Berlin.

(This is the fourth in a chain of occasional tales concerning the demanding situations the younger face in an more and more perilous global. Reporting for the sequence used to be supported by means of a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.)

This tale at the beginning seemed in Los Angeles Times.

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