[Hallyupedia] FIRE jok (파이어족)

나확진 / 인턴 차민경 / 2021-10-09 07:00:39
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by Ra Hwak Jin / Cha Min Kyung

[ENG] A newly-coined Korean term that describes people who retire or intend to retire early through economic independence


▲ This captured photo shows a list of books related to the "FIRE Movement" or "FIRE jok" in Korean. (Yonhap)



"FIRE jok," a newly coined term in Korea refers to those who retire or want to retire early before through economic independence. The key demographic of this concept are usually those in their thirties and forties who work for large corporations or are professionals with high income and education. The word 'FIRE' is actually an acronym for "Financial Independence, Retire Early," and "jok·[족]" is a Korean word commonly used as a suffix to refer a specific group.

Since "FIRE" is an acronym, the meaning has nothing to do with actual fire nor does it mean someone is being fired as the term was initially created to point out people who retire voluntarily.

In addition, the term emphasizes more on people's financial independence rather than the early retirement. In other words, the "FIRE jok" chooses to retire when they can financially support themselves without having to look for another job after leaving their jobs. During this process, the key is for people to shift their values and focus on spending money on important things instead of unnecessary consumption. Even after the retirement, it is important to strive for a frugal and stable life rather than living a economically care-free life. It seeks the freedom to choose work without being tied to money.

However, the term "FIRE jok" does not originate from Korea.

According to Doopedia, a Korean language encyclopedia published by South Korean multinational conglomerate corporation Doosan Donga, the FIRE movement began in the U.S. in the 1990s and became popular online after the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Millennials (born in the 1980s to early 2000s), who watched their parents suffer financially even after retirement amid the collapse of the traditional social security system and continued recession, paid attention to this, and the fire movement has spread to Australia, the UK, the Netherlands, and India over the next decade.


▲ This file photo, shows the Jerome Powell, the 16th chair of the Federal Reserve of the United States. (Yonhap)


The New York Times also reported last February that the increase in people joining the "FIRE Movement" was an issue for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As more people are increasing savings than the general public for early retirement, this meant a decrease in consumption in the U.S. economy, adding to the burden on the existing low inflation rates. 

In Korea, many people part of the "FIRE jok" have been under the spotlight on TV programs and newspapers in the past year or two.


▲ This photo, captured from the official YouTube channel of "You Quiz on the Block," shows comedian Yoo Jae-seok, Kim Da-hyun, and Jo Se-ho (L to R). (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Recently, Kim Da-hyun, a retiree in her 40s, made headlines after appearing on comedian Yoo Jae-seok's "You Quiz on the Block" and introducing her lifestyle as part of the "FIRE jok" as well as the preparations made ahead of her retirement.

Kim, who has worked as a product manager for several IT companies, explained that she decided to become a "FIRE jok" after she was down with intestinal inflammation due to severe stress and her husband questioned her purpose of working until she was sick.

"I believed the amount of money I needed before receiving my pension when I was 55-years-old was 500 million won," adding, "I knew I wasn't going to live in a leisurely way with that money but also knew I wasn't going to starve to death. I also plan to travel with my husband with 100 million won."

In July, Kim published a book titled "A Couple Retires Together at 40," which follows stories based on her own experiences.

However, some pointed out that Kim did not retire entirely but rather transformed as a writer as she had published her own book.

Apart from Kim, more people are publishing books relating to "FIRE jok."

▲ This photo, provided by The Korea Economic Daily, shows Lee Hyung-wook's "The Korean FIRE jok Scenario" book. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

After working at Samsung Electronics and Google, a man in his thirties named Lee Hyung-wook recently published a book ahead of his retirement with the title "The Korean FIRE jok Scenario," which includes his financial know-how as well as interviews with 16 people from different age ranges who have succeeded in early retirement.

As a result, it is clear that there is a growing interest in "FIRE jok" within the Korean society. However, it is still not easy to affirm how many people actually achieved economic independence and retired early. This is because people do get re-employed due to experiencing financial difficulties after retiring early.



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