Seoul Harbors World's Most Dissatisfied People

May 30, 2023 13:22
Economic worries weigh so heavily on families in Seoul that they get little joy out of anything else, a survey suggests.Seoul National University Asia Center and Hankook Research polled 10,500 residents of the world's 15 most populous capitals -- 700 each in Ankara, Beijing, Jakarta, Jerusalem, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur, London, New Delhi, New York, Paris, Riyadh, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Tokyo -- about their life satisfaction, and Seoul ranked dead last.Eighty-one percent of Seoul citizens said their children are a burden to them, while only 68.1 percent admitted they are also a source of happiness. The only other city where more parents found their children a burden than a source of happiness was Tokyo with 65 percent and 60 percent. In Jakarta, 95.4 percent said children are a source of happiness, and just 24.4 percent also felt they are a burden. In Ankara and Hanoi, more than 93 percent felt children are a source of happiness, and in Beijing 90.7 percent. The researchers said raising children costs money, but normally the joy of having them outweighs the cost, "but in Seoul the burden weighs heavily on happiness, which can only exacerbate the low birthrate." Some 21.9 percent of Seoul citizens said they are unhappy with their family life, while 38.3 percent said they are unhappy with their jobs. Only 42.3 percent said they are satisfied with their life as a whole.Beijing ranked a surprising first with 84.9 percent saying they are satisfied with their life, followed by 80.3 percent in New Delhi. But even in notoriously grouchy New York and London, over 70 percent said they are. 
One reason for low life satisfaction among Koreans may be that they tend to prioritize work over family. Yoo Jo-an at Seoul National University said, "In major cities around the world, when you get a phone call saying your child is sick and tell your boss you have to go, that is a definite reason to be excused, but not in Korea." The tendency of Koreans to compare their lives with others is another source of unhappiness and anxiety. Low job satisfaction is probably due to the rigid, top-down hierarchy that lingers in many places and turns labor into drudgery for subalterns.Residents in Seoul also had the greatest distrust of strangers with 71.4 percent, while only 6.4 percent trust them. In Tokyo 48.4 percent did not trust strangers and in New York 35.4 percent.That includes xenophobia, with only 8.9 percent saying they trust foreigners, compared to 44.3 percent in cosmopolitan New York and 43.6 percent in London. Even in Beijing some 29 percent have nothing against foreigners.Seoulites distrust of everyone and everything extends to their neighbors, with only 24.1 percent saying they have time for them. The percentage was over 50 percent in more than 10 major cities, while only Taipei and Tokyo went around harboring similar suspicions of their neighbors and only 28.1 percent and 38 percent trust them.Huh Jung-won at the SNU Asia Center said, "Koreans' wariness of unfamiliar people is growing stronger as many believe they live in a homogeneous nation while competition in society is getting fiercer all the time." The center will share the findings of the survey at a symposium on Wednesday. 

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