Narratives of Success and Failure in Ressentiment: Assuming Victimhood and Transmuting Frustration among Young Korean Men

Tereza Capelos*, Ellen Nield, Mikko Salmela

*Corresponding author for this work

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In this article, we examine toxic masculinity, anti-feminist, anti-globalisation, and anti-military conscription positions in the narratives of what constitutes success and failure among young South Korean men during the COVID-19 pandemic. Misogynistic accounts attributed to the globalised effects of neoliberalism and its evolution through South Korean meritocratic competition, compounded by the social isolation of the pandemic, remain a puzzle psychologically, despite their toxic emotionality. We use the analytical framework of ressentiment to consolidate references to moral victimhood, indignation, a sense of destiny, powerlessness, and transvaluation, as components of a single emotional mechanism responsible for misogynistic accounts. In an empirical plausibility probe, we analyse qualitative surveys with young South Korean men and examine the content of the far-right social sharing site Ilbe (일베) which hosts conversations of young men about success and self-improvement. Our findings show envy, shame, and inefficacious anger transvaluated into to moral victimhood, misogynistic hatred, vindictiveness against women and feminists, and anti-globalisation stances. We discuss how the content of these narratives of success and failure in ressentiment relates to the electoral win of the right-wing People Power party in March 2022 which capitalised on anti-feminist grievances. We also consider the socio-political consequences of ressentiment narratives in the highly gendered and polarised South Korean society and expand the study of ressentiment outside the context of Western democracies where it has been most extensively elaborated.
Original languageEnglish
Article number259
Number of pages23
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 24 Apr 2023


  • ressentiment
  • South Korea
  • COVID-19
  • misogyny
  • Incel
  • powerlessness
  • anger


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