My recent article “Why it is kinda stupid to compare Malaysia with Korea” attracted many interesting reactions. There are many Malaysians who have lost our ability to think straight as a result of extreme partisanship and the politics of hate.
This easy and direct article has a simple purpose; to help us Malaysians learn a simple fact. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. I am not interested in making South Korea look bad. As stressed in the earlier article, each nation has their unique challenges and must rise to the occasion.
Here are some hard facts from polls done in South Korea.
Korea the OECD’s Most Unhappy Nation
Considering the state of the economy and how much Koreans work, the results of this poll are not surprising:
However, the country ranked at the bottom in terms of life satisfaction. In a survey of career interest, pride and annual leave among 1,000 people aged 15 or older in each member state in 2008, Korea finished 24th with 23.1 out of 100 points, much lower than the average of 54.3 points.
In a negative index survey of pain, hypochondria, and sadness the same year, the country averaged 61.5 points, far above the average of 35.6.
As of 2007, a Korean worked 2,316 hours, the longest among member states and 548 hours more than the average of 1,768. In terms of eight-hour work days, this means that Koreans worked 69 days more than their counterparts. The Dutch worked the shortest hours with 1,392. The Japanese (1,785 hours) and Americans (1,794 hours) also worked fewer hours.
If You’re So Rich, How Come You’re So Miserable?
Korea’s per-capita income now rivals New Zealand’s, Israel’s, and Greece’s, and the economy is growing about 3 percent a year even as Europe crashes. South Korean companies are chipping away at Apple Inc.’s global smartphone domination; the nation is a world power in automobiles, shipbuilding and steel; and its soft power is being advanced by “K-pop” bands, movies, and television dramas as the population nears the 50 million mark.
Why, then, are South Koreans the second most unhappy people?
In a recent life-satisfaction study of 32 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development by the World Values Survey Association, South Korea came in 31st. Surveys by Korean research institutes find that happiness among teenagers is the lowest in the OECD. The nation also is at the top of global league tables for suicides.
“The problem is that we Koreans are now too much focused on competing with each other,” says Kim Yong Duk, a former deputy finance minister who teaches at Korea University Business School. “Always seeking to be best makes people too tired and stressed. Now it’s time to hug each other.”
South Korea’s free-market revolution gave companies incentives to dump full-time workers in favour of lower-paid contract workers. It meant less focus on building social safety nets needed to catch workers unable to quickly adapt to job obsolescence. Fear of unemployment has South Koreans working some of the longest hours anywhere.
What Makes S. Koreans Unhappy
South Korea has reached a per-capita GDP of US$20,000, while its economy is the world's 13th largest, but South Koreans are far from happy. According to a Gallup poll, the number of South Koreans who are happy about their lives decreased 10 percent between 1992 and 2010 when the country's per-capita GDP grew threefold. The country consistently ranks at the bottom in various happiness indices around the world.
Money is the main reason behind South Korea's low birth rate for more than half of respondents. And the country has the highest ratio of people who cite financial costs as being the biggest threat to future generations (29.8 percent).
It is the only country among the surveyed nations whose people prefer to give birth to their children in other countries. One in four South Koreans said that they want to give birth to their children abroad to give them non-Korean nationalities. Only 20.1 percent of South Koreans want to have their babies in the country, the lowest among the 10 nations.
My dear Malaysians,
please do some thinking. And remember, the grass is greener where we water them. Let’s water the grass in Malaysia.
And, may all of us guide ourselves with love, logic, and wisdom because love will make us fair with our hearts; logic, because logic will make us fair with our mind; and wisdom, because wisdom will lead us to combine our love and logic in the way of God and for the benefit of Mankind.