From X to Z: Generations in Dialogue


In contemporary South Korea, generational differences have become a cause for serious concern.

On the one hand, elderly citizens account for an ever-growing portion of the population, but rapid technological changes exclude many of them from the social sphere. On the other hand, more and more young South Koreans embody habits and beliefs that deviate from established social norms. They are tech-savvy and heavily invested in individual happiness; they also confess to an increasing feeling of distance from, if not outright hostility toward, generations that came before them.

Such problems of generational differences aren’t limited only to South Korea. After all, “Millennials” (those born between 1981 and 1996—according to conventional definitions) have prompted much hand-wringing in global media for seemingly rejecting lifestyles and values of their parents. Conflicts and lack of understanding between generations have been identified as possible threats to social and political harmony in countries as far away from South Korea as France and Germany.

To explore what this generational shift worldwide means and how we can respond to its challenges, Goethe-Institut Korea and Institut Français de Corée du Sud are jointly organizing a series of events titled “From X to Z: Generations in Dialogue,” in cooperation with Korea Exposé and with support from Franco-German Cultural Funds.

In three panel discussions and an open debate, spread over a period of four days from May 7 to 10, distinguished experts from South Korea, Germany and France will gather to discuss the issue with three distinct focuses: digital literacy, the meaning of happiness, and effects and responses to globalization.

All panel discussions will be moderated by Korea Exposé founder and editor-in-chief Se-Woong Koo. All the events will be in English and Korean, with simultaneous interpretation. For the open debate over dinner (titled Dinner Conversation), participants can choose from Korean, English, French and German.

To register for panel discussions, please click here.

To register for the open debate (a.k.a. Dinner Conversation), please click here.



Detailed event description


May 7: Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants

Time: 7:30 to 9:30 pm

Location: Korea Exposé

Never has the pace of technological innovation been felt so acutely. The differences between generations in the level of familiarity with mobile technologies and digital contents aren’t simply a problem of consumption but also one of communication and engagement. But how seriously should this problem be viewed? And what are its ramifications for political and social discourse in the future?

The panel discussion will involve KANG Jeong-Soo (South Korea), Sylvie OCTOBRE (France) and Christopher DEEG (Germany). A reception will follow.


May 8: The Value of Happiness

Time: 7:30 to 9:30 pm

Location: Art Sonje Center

The young generation today is often said to be the first in the modern era to endure a lower standard of living than that of the preceding generation. Accordingly, young people’s approach to personal happiness has been characterized by a shift away from material consumption toward an emphasis on experience and digital self-branding. How much of this change is driven by the economic conditions of the current global order? Or is there a genuinely new understanding of happiness on the horizon?

The panel discussion will involve Haemin Sunim (South Korea) and Cécile VAN DE VELDE (France).  


May 9: Us in the World

Time: 7:30 to 9:30 pm

Location: Goethe-Institut Korea

Travel and migration are distinct features of modern life in the throes of rapid globalization. But the increasing freedom of movement has not always been welcomed across the world, especially when migrants and refugees are involved. How much of such attitudes toward ‘others’ are then shaped by age and different generational experiences? Is there a way to build a more tolerant society across generations and cultures?    

The panel discussion will involve YOON In-Jin (South Korea) and Dirk VON GEHLEN (Germany). A reception will follow.


May 10: Dinner Conversation: Dialogue into Action

Time: 7:00 to 11:00 pm

Location: The French Embassy

It is customary for families to engage with issues of the day over dinner, and we will simulate that environment with our expert panelists and interested members of the public in the space of the French ambassador’s official residence in Seoul. Assigned to different tables—each with a specific theme in connection with the event series—participants will collectively reflect on the state of intergenerational dialogue, following the method developed by Marion Genaivre, founder of French philosophy agency Thae.

Every table will have a moderator to stimulate conversation. Dinner will be provided, and a reception will follow.

This event will be moderated by Marion GENAIVRE (France).



Participant biographies


Se-Woong KOO founded and manages Korea Exposé, an independent media outlet specializing in the Korean Peninsula. He earned his PhD in religious studies with a focus on Korea from Stanford University in 2011. Formerly, he was visiting researcher at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris, France; and taught at the Asian University for Women and Yale University. He has frequently contributed essays and reporting on Korea to The New York Times, Al Jazeera and BBC World News.

KANG Jeong-Soo is a new media expert who until recently headed Mediati, a media startup accelerator based in Seoul. He received his PhD in business administration from Witten/Herdecke University in Germany. Widely recognized as one of South Korea’s foremost experts on digital economy and innovation, Dr. Kang has been a lecturer at Yonsei University and advises many South Korean media companies on their digital media strategies.

Sylvie OCTOBRE is a French sociologist who specializes in cultural practices of children and young adults. She is a researcher in the Department of Studies, Forecasting and Statistics (DEPS) at the French Ministry of Culture and Communication; associate researcher in the Study Group on Methods of Sociological Analysis, La Sorbonne (GEMASS); and co-chief editor of the journal Youth and Globalization. In 2018, she published her latest work Les technocultures juvéniles: du culturel au politique (Technocultures of the Youth: From Cultural to Political).

Christopher DEEG describes himself as a “designer for digital-analog living-spaces”. He is a consultant, speaker and author in the field of gamification, digital transformation and digital risk. In this context he is consulting and supporting national and international organizations in the development and implementation of comprehensive and sustainable digital strategies that connect the analog with the digital living space. He is also developing playful experiences and gamified learning-spaces to impart cultural and scientific content.

Haemin Sunim, born Ryan Bongseok Joo, is a monk in South Korea’s Chogye Buddhist order and the author of the 2012 blockbuster bestseller The Things That You Can See Only When You Slow Down. He received his master’s degree in divinity from Harvard University and his PhD in religious studies from Princeton University. He was assistant professor of religious studies at Hampshire College in the U.S. for seven years before returning to South Korea and becoming one of South Korea’s leading spiritual figures today.

Cécile VAN DE VELDE is a French sociologist and currently teaches at the University of Montreal in Canada. Her body of work sheds light on the plight of youth, the shifts in age structure, and the evolution of relationships between generations. She has written many journal articles, chapters and books, including Becoming Adult: Comparative Sociology of Youth in Europe (2008), as well as Sociology of the Life Course (2015).

YOON In-Jin is professor of sociology at Korea University in Seoul. He received his master’s and doctoral degrees, both in sociology, from the University of Chicago. Previously he taught in the Department of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Yoon has authored numerous books and articles on racial identity and multiculturalism, and sat on the advisory committee to the South Korean prime minister for domestic policies concerning the foreign population.

Dirk VON GEHLEN  is an author, journalist and speaker who graduated from LMU Munich with a degree in communication studies, political science and modern German literature. He currently heads the Department of Social Media and Innovation at the Süddeutsche Zeitung, one of Germany’s leading newspapers. Von Gehlen has received several prizes including the Grimme Online Award for his work on the online magazine “”.

Marion GENAIVRE holds three master’s degrees in philosophy from the Université-Paris I (Panthéon-Sorbonne), including the professional Master of Applied Philosophy degree (ETHIRES). In 2013, she co-founded the philosophy agency Thaé, which uses philosophy as a way to address conventional thinking and defeat prejudices by (re)giving meaning to commonly-used but rarely questioned words. She conducts participatory workshops and forums that encourage everyone to think for themselves, to put their assumptions to the test, to formulate arguments, and to co-construct shared thinking.

KOREA EXPOSÉ Editorial Team