Hwang Hyeon-dong (below) lives in a 6.6-square-metre (71-square foot) cubicle near his university campus in Seoul, which comes with a shared bathroom and kitchen plus all the rice he can eat, that he rents for 350,000 won ($302) a month.
Gold spoons are now a hot gift item, replacing gold rings traditionally given to children on their first birthdays, wishing them a wealthy life.
The fact that gold and dirt spoons are portrayed in popular culture in such a diverse range is reflective of the bitter hopelessness among the have-nots, said Kim Jong-min, leader of a civic group Youth Taeil which supports young jobseekers and temporary workers.
"But, powerful people in the Moon government and the ruling party - they portray themselves as reformists, but they are just the same old politicians that are not listening to the suffering of the low-income class," he said.
PHOTO EDITING BY GABRIELLE FONSECA JOHNSON; TEXT EDITING BY Jack Kim and Lincoln Feast; Layout by Julia Dalrymple