Monday, August 22, 2011

South Korean quality-of-life satisfaction still in the panjiha

A report from the Korea Development Institute, using OECD statistics, confirms something that should come as a surprise to no one: All the easy access to K-pop, Korean food, blazingly high-speed Internet, and Cinema Coreana is not enough to offset the poor living standards brought on by population density, grubby streets, and reckless driving habits.

From the Joongang Daily:
Korea’s quality of life ranks low among major advanced economies in the world despite its relatively good macroeconomic indicators, a report showed yesterday.

According to the report by the state-run Korea Development Institute, Korea’s quality-of-life index ranked 27th in 2008 among 39 countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Group of 20.

The 2008 ranking was unchanged from that in 2000, according to the report, which also covered other areas including growth potential, infrastructure and the environment. The Ministry of Strategy and Finance commissioned the KDI to compile the report based on statistics from the OECD, the UN and the World Bank.

The report pointed out that Korea’s quality of life has failed to make improvements despite the rapid growth of its economy, which is the fourth-largest economy in Asia.

“Korea’s per capita income has risen significantly over the past 20 years,” the report said. “Nonetheless, Koreans’ satisfaction level of their quality of life is stagnant. We are seeing the ‘Easterlin Paradox’ here.”

The Easterlin Paradox is a key concept in happiness economics, developed by Richard Easterlin, an economist and a University of Southern California professor.

Easterlin found that within a given country, people with higher incomes are more likely to be happy. However, it’s a slightly different story in an international comparison. A country with higher national income per person is not necessarily happier than countries with lower national income per person, more so if the country’s people enjoyed income sufficient to meet basic needs.
Well, there's your problem right there: You're measuring it by self-reported satisfaction. Despite objective and measurable improvements in quality of life (shorter working hours, better and greater variety of food, improved transportation infrastructure, a rise in quality of homes, etc., etc.), people are reporting that they're no happier than they were before.

The ugly truth is that South Korea is full of malcontents who think someone else has always got it better and easier. It's the engine for self-improvement, nose-to-the-grindstone collectivism, and oh-so-much plastic surgery, but also the source of a semi-permanent malaise.

I call that the Kushibo Conundrum.

Perhaps Korea's self-reported quality of life would improve
if the country imported more Koreaphilic foreigners. 


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