Koreans Lose Hope of a Better Future

      October 26, 2010 07:18

      The so-called "lost decade" of economic stagnation in Japan has been blamed on widespread lack of motivation throughout Japanese society. The trend sees a growing number of young people left behind in a highly-competitive society, giving up on plans for successful careers and choosing to juggle part-time jobs for low wages. This slacker mentality is being cited as triggering the vicious cycle of prolonged economic stagnation.

      Now the phenomenon seems to be spreading to Korea as more young people here become convinced that it is impossible to improve their social and income levels through hard work.

      For the Chosun Ilbo, Gallup Korea surveyed 631 low-income Koreans between 19 and 65 who make less than W2 million (US$1=W1,116) a month. The results showed a clear tendency of frustration and complacency among members of this bracket. Among those surveyed, 49.1 percent felt they cannot become wealthy even if they try, while 48.2 percent felt they can. When asked what Korean society will look like 10 years from now, 63.5 percent said the rich will get richer and the poor poorer, and 10.3 percent that living conditions will become more difficult for everyone. Only 19.2 percent believed living conditions will either improve or remain the same.

      Nine out of 10 respondents said they either belong to the middle-to-low class (36.1 percent), low class (35.5 percent) or the bottom rung of the social pyramid (18.4 percent). The problem seems to be that they have no motivation or hope of a better future. When asked about their prospects 10 years from now, two out of three in the middle-to-low class to bottom class said they would either remain in the same income bracket or become poorer. Only a small minority expect their status to improve.

      Looking at the Gini coefficient, which gauges the level of equitable distribution of wealth, Korea was 17th among OECD member countries, which is about average. So why are Koreans becoming increasingly anxious even though Korea is little different from most other OECD members. Kim Hee-sam of the Korea Development Institute said, "There is a widespread anxiety about a perceived decrease in the opportunities for success."   

      The vast majority of respondents or 78.8 percent said they have no plans to change their jobs, and it was not because their jobs hold a bright future or they like them. Rather, 60.4 percent said there is no other alternative, while 9.5 percent said they are too old to jump ship. Some 78.4 percent said they are not saving any money, with 26.3 percent of them in debt.

      One out of three said they are worn out and have no hope for their future (33.8 percent), while one out of five (23.1 percent) said they are angry and filled with hatred when they see rich people. Seven out of 10 (67.2 percent) said Korean society is unfair.

      Experts say that it is urgent for the government to have social safety network in place to restore and boost morale among the public.

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