Can Korea Become a Welfare State? Netizens Discuss

Political cartoon by Lee Hee-jae in the liberal-leaning Hankyoreh, a leading South Korean newspaper.

The article below on Korean welfare, from the Ddanzi Ilbo, was published in late October. Although the presidential election climate has changed since then, this is an excellent introduction to the state of the Korean welfare system, a topic that is one of the most prominent election issues, and is one of the most pressing concerns being dealt with by Korean society today.

As our readers will know, Korea underwent fairly rapid economic development and political changes in the latter half of the 20th Century, and new social challenges therefore await this newly transformed modern society.

Presidential candidates from both ruling and opposition parties have been using rhetoric that speaks of ‘economic democratization’, ie policy that will regulate Korea’s super industries, the Chaebols.

This article takes the format of an op-ed –– it’s long but, using informal language, offers an excellent introduction to a topic on the tip of a lot of Korean tongues at the moment.

From the Ddanzi Ilbo:

Is Welfare Viable in Korea?

1. Election – meaningless stage for political quarrels alienated from discourses on political economics

Presidential candidates. Dr. Ahn Cheol-su on the right eventually withdrew his candidacy.

Presidential candidates. Independent Ahn Cheol-soo on the right eventually withdrew his candidacy.

As the congressional and presidential election period begins, while both ruling and opposition parties are advocating ‘welfare’ and ‘economic democratization’, the eye-catching issues stimulating the public are gossipy scandals and negatives on the presidential candidates.

Frankly speaking, issues like Ahn Cheol-soo‘s room salong scandal blackmailed by Jung Joon-gil and Park Geun-hye‘s remark on 5.16 People’s Revolutionary Party Incident seem to be nothing more than useless bickering in political games.

The opposition party’s fussy attempt to make Park Geun-hye look like ‘Yushin Witch’ is an equal act of douchebaggery as the Saenuri Party‘s desperate mudslinging at Ahn Cheol-soo. The Democratic United Party (DUP) and Moon Jae-in‘s dragging on injustices during the Yushin period to defame Park Geun-hye may have some effect in drawing supporters, but they don’t realize they cage themselves in the backward-looking 70 and 80s frame.

As the presidential election gets imminent, it is obvious that political parties will not show anything more than acts of political engineering where they seek to effectively rake over the opponents’ flaws. It is also more than obvious that each party’s supporters will dutifully follow such lead and curse at the opponents as if it is a shortcut to realization of justice.

No wonder they try to figure out why the opposition party failed only from the political engineering aspect. It is not surprising that American Democratic Party’s ideologist and linguist George Lakoff‘s book “Don’t Think of an Elephant!” is read like a bible by them. Instead of seriously reflecting on how citizens’ life has changed, they conclude that they just lost in the ‘frame war’ in their political engineering assessment.

It is clear why American Democrats and Korean opposition party lose or win over their conservative counterparts. Whether they seized power or not, there was no difference in common people’s living standards.

I covered Korea’s situation in details in the last article so let’s briefly go over America’s case.

With the dollar’s worth in 2007 as the reference, American worker’s hourly wage increased from $18.9 in 1973 to $21.3 in 2006. For 33 years, only a little more than 2 dollars increased. Practically, American workers’ wages barely increased from the 70s.

Instead, there has been a drastic change in the wage gap between CEOs and the working class. In the 60 and 70s, the ratio was about 30~40:1. In the 90s, it became 100:1 and in the 2000s, it even became as dramatic as 300~400:1.

After the unprecedented financial crisis that originated from America, the American reformist atmosphere with the new Obama administration was comparable to that when Pres. Roh Moo-hyun was elected in Korea. However, it took only one year until the American citizens’ hope turned into despair. Both countries took surprisingly identical routes. That is, the policies that betrayed the supporters, the impotent reforms behind the fancy reformist rhetoric and blame-shifting to the conservatives…

The health care reform that Obama tried to implement with full strength couldn’t even touch the edge of private insurance companies and they indiscriminately salvaged speculative capitals that caused the financial crisis, which ridiculously fattened the financial companies. For the low-income bracket people who were suffering from the crisis, the administration could only come up with impotent policies. The year-long ‘Occupy Wall Street‘ movement could not propel any reforms. In short, Obama was no different from being ‘Black Bush’.

It was a predictable result that hopeless American citizens ‘judged’ the Democratic Party in the midterm elections. This exactly overlaps with the situation where the Our Open Party was defeated by the Hannara [Saenuri] Party in the by-elections during the Roh Moo-hyun administration.

In that sense, the conservatives who explicitly advocate neoliberal policies such as ‘tax reduction for the rich’ and ‘small government, big market’ seem even more honest. In fact, from the ‘frame war’ point of view, you can argue that the DUP, who is barely different from the conservative groups in terms of political economics, is more competent at making ideological frauds. They have succeeded only in creating confrontational angles such as good vs. evil, conservative vs. reformist, and corrupt vs. conscientious.

However, truth be told, it is unclear how they can label themselves as good, reformist and conscientious. During election periods, instead of dealing with citizens’ practical problems, they end up focusing on scandals that make the opponents look like bastards.

Some would probably say “pledges on economic policies and such aren’t debated much because they are difficult to digest for the general public.”

However, if you take a look at issues such as ‘4 major reform legislations’ and Korea-US FTA during Roh administration, and the US beef candle protest and the recent controversies about free lunch for elementary schools during Lee Myung-bak administration, it is deceptive to insist discourses on policies do not appeal to the public.

Belatedly, the DUP came up with slogans like ‘economic democratization’, ‘welfare state’, ‘chaebol reform’, etc. Whether they are right or wrong, they don’t show much details or passion. In addition, it is hard to see how their policies are different from those pledged by the Hannara [Saenuri] Party whereas Park Geun-hye rather has a strong stance in this.

It is simple why scandals overwhelm political outlooks during this election period. It is because currently there is not much clashing between the ruling and opposition parties in terms of their policies.

A while ago, Cheon Jeong-bae agreed that they should learn how to organize from the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) and policies from the New Progressive Party (NPP). This plainly revealed the DUP’s current state. Let’s take a look at the policy part.

It is legally required that more than 30% of the state subsidies given to each party be used for policy development. The DLP, who entered their first-ever session in the 17th National Assembly, really did use over 30% for policy development. The amount of subsidies was only 200~300 million won because it is proportional to the number of seats. Despite their low salary, tens of policy researchers worked together to develop methods to realize policies such as ‘free health care’, ‘tax reform’, ‘national university network’, ‘rental housing’, etc.

Later on, the NPP became a strong policy maker because when the DLP suffered the ‘jongpuk‘ controversy, most of their researchers went to the NPP.

On the other hand, the 17th Our Open Party and the 18th DUP received over 10 times more subsidies but they haven’t offered any distinctive policy for the people’s livelihood. As ‘welfare’ has entered the spirit of the age, they in haste even had to copy the polices pledged by the DLP 8 years ago.

As the Saenuri Party claims the conservative forefront, their basic stance might be that they will just patch up the current social structure. What on earth is the reform-insisting DUP doing then? There is no practical blueprint for what they will do when they are elected. They simply put the rhetoric of ‘reform’ on the existing frame. This makes them vulnerable to arrows of disillusionment.

I really want to ask the opposition party’s passionate supporters full of maddening righteousness and ‘sincerity’. What is the true objective in politics that you think of? Is it your political duty to prevent the ‘specific group’ from seizing power and ‘critically support’ the other party for over 20 years?

From what I have observed, your fundamental motivation for supporting the opposition party comes from the consumptive objective, which is to oppose anti-democratic power since ’87, rather than constructive goals such as ‘to make life better’ or ‘to achieve something’. With this mindset, ‘critical support’ ends up being ‘unconditional support’.

What makes this little hooligan exercise his middle finger?

As a result, an election always turns into a huge adrenaline-rushing sport event where you passionately cheer for your team and stomp on your opponents. Fandom replaces the space for politics. Seeing the DUP’s state after the congressional election, I don’t think it will be much different for the presidential election. That’s why I am somewhat cynical about this upcoming presidential election.

2. I look forward to the 3rd political force with a new spirit of the age.

Although I am a little cynical about this election, I don’t take the circumstances surrounding it lightly. It’s actually the opposite.

From a worldwide perspective, neoliberal order, which replaced Keynesianism after the 70s and had power for 30 years, has withered away since the financial crisis in 2008. In the same vein in Korea, free market capitalism, which replaced the modernization movement in the 70s and came in full force in the 90s, died down after severe polarization.

In other words, the winner-take-all market triumphalism after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which promoted venture business fever and real-estate madness under the motto ‘be rich’ as symbolized by the best-sellers such as ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad‘ and ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People‘, is ending with a legacy of unprecedented household debts exceeding 1000 trillion won.

This confession from a businessman of 486 activist generation in an interview with the Hankyoreh newspaper last year is suggestive.

First of all, I want to fess up an illusion that our generation had. We equated political freedom with free economic competition. Covertly, we mistook neoliberalism for an extension of political freedom. We sat back and watched free competition turning into dominance. As a result, for the last 20 years, it seems our corporations have got bigger and our society has become affluent but strangely, individuals feel life is more tough. What on earth has happened in the meantime? We began to reflect on it. A dramatic expression of such frustrations is the Ahn Cheol-soo syndrome. In the same spirit, the book ‘Justice: What’s the right thing to do?‘ has sold more than a million copies last year in Korea. Now 386 generation people, who are about to turn 50, are returning to the original question they had in the first place.

Slogans like ‘citizens, be successful’ and ‘new town’ in the last elections made a sharp turn to ‘economic democratization’ and ‘welfare state’ only after 4 or 5 years. What caused it? That is the spirit of the age resisting the market capitalism that has expanded for the past 20~30 years.

If you agree that it is time to demand a new spirit to change the shades in Korean society after 30 years for industrialization and another 30 years for democratization, you would find a unique meaning from this upcoming election.

However, seeing the behavior of the political groups that represented ‘industrialization’ and ‘democratization’, I doubt they have the willpower and ability to realize this new mission. Their political agendas and pledges are far from dealing with the problems that need to be solved in today’s Korean society.

Then, before considering the feasibility, the best we can hope for is the advent of a new political force. I cannot help but look forward to a completely new political group that isn’t tied down to binary ideological confrontations about democracy and different from the ‘progressive party’ that has degenerated into an alumni association of NL-PD activists. When will you stop trying to find the key only around the street lamp just because it’s bright there?

3. Let’s look at Korean society with an eye of a kid looking at a naked king.

Alvin Toffler’s “Revolutionary Wealth”

Alvin Toffler: The most incomprehensible thing about Korea is that their education is going backward. Korean students spend 15 hours at school and hagwon to learn knowledge that won’t be necessary in the future or for jobs that don’t even exist. They are wasting precious time.

Korean Society on Crack

There is only one reason for demanding the 3rd political force despite the existing progressive party. It is because there is no political party that can see straight through the socioeconomic ordeals that distort Korean society and fundamentally improve people’s livelihood.

It is outrageous to watch the arguments going on in current politics, considering the situation where the working class is pushed to the limit. Let’s forget about the issues mainstream intellectuals and media deal with. Let’s calmly contemplate from where we stand. Is Park Geun-hye’s past deeds or merging candidates really concerning your life? Are you familiar with what slogans like ‘economic democratization’ and ‘welfare state’ that each candidate put up really mean? Do you think they can be a fundamental solution to the socioeconomic pain that Korean society suffers?

Apart from any political stance, just from scratch, sit down and think about the problems that constantly affect our life and inflict pain on us.

Insane education fever and costs, wage gap between industries, lack of social safety net, plunderous high interest for the working class and their astronomical household debt, flooding of small businesses, low-quality jobs, etc. It is surprising that these life problems that distress common people haven’t been properly addressed in the political agenda so far.

Especially after the late 90s when the norm of lifelong employment has collapsed and shareholder capitalism emerged at the forefront, the devastating triangle of a million unemployed people, 7 million temporary workers and 6 million small business owners and the bizarre triple crown of OECD top suicide rate, lowest birth rate and longest working hours have opened the Hell Gate for Korean society. Let’s take a look at what measures our politicians suggest.

Free lunch, halved tuitions, limiting operation hours of big retailers and hogwons, limiting the duration of temporary job positions to 2 years, independent high schools, hosting foreign universities…

If your frontal brain is functioning properly, you will realize this is not different from applying bandages to treat appendicitis. Even that is hyped up as some great policy-making while politicians argue back and forth. What’s even more ridiculous is that civic society and activists blindly follow those petty issues.

Did the naked king drink too much beer?

From the perspective of a child looking at a naked king, let’s not give in to any authority and think about causes and solutions for the problems with common sense.

Worship of educational background leading to the Hell Gate

For an average Korean household that has children, the biggest expense is likely to be education costs, especially for private education. Both low-income and middle-class families are under a similar level of stress because if they earn more, they pour more money into ‘better quality’ education.

Middle-class kids are sent to English kindergartens right after they begin to read letters. They grow up taking hagwon and private lessons. After they enter university, they take ESL courses abroad to build their ‘specs‘. The amount of education costs until they stand on their own feet can be on par with some salarymen’s lifetime wage.

Look at this recent statistics. According to a survey on Seoulites, 37% of school parents spend over 900,000 won and 70% of them spend more than 500,000 won for private education.

Polarization of the exam race

Private education expenses have been accused by all walks of life of being the main culprit behind the low birth rate, disrupting retirement plans and massively burdening household budgets. Also, polarization of education along with succession of wealth has been intensified.

“If you are not good at studying, you should pursue something else but there are not enough alternatives.”

Korean education industry might have the only market that consumes an astronomical amount of money every year but makes everyone unhappy. Students get sick and tired of long hours spent for studying and parents are staggered by tuitions. Everyone, except for the minority who enter the named universities, becomes a loser in this race.

“Top 20 universities’ admission limit: top 7.4% students”
“SKY universities’ [3 elite schools in Seoul] admission limit: 10,248 students”

“1.4% of the total university entrance exam writers enter the SKY universities.”

Although widespread social grievance against this crazy zero-sum game has reached a critical point, solutions are not in sight. Nobody believes it will be resolved even though politicians promise to curb private education costs and strengthen public education in every election.

The conservative’s drivel about abolishment of standardized education and the progressive’s emphasis on consolidating public education are equally incompetent.

Let’s think about it. The reason for private education is to get relatively better grades than competing students in the race to the elite universities. Even if the quality of public education reaches the world’s best level, as long as the competition itself remains there, poorly performing students will still try to resort to private education to catch up.

Demand for private education → supply of better public education → demand for even better private education → supply of much much better public education… This routine is indefinitely repeated. In fact, with limited budgets and broadly controlled system, public education cannot be a good match for private education that is specialized in preparing individual students for writing exams in the first place.

A few years ago, in a by-election for the National Assembly members, Shim Sang-jeong from Ilsan pledged to introduce the Finnish education system in order to improve public education. However, even if you directly import Finnish schools, teachers and curricula to Korea, do you think the problem will be solved as long as the exam race still exists?

In the current exam race system for elite schools, it is completely misleading to advocate supply of public education that is better than private education from a market-centric approach.

What made matters worse is the doctrine of ‘open creativity-developing education’ as an antithesis to the memorization-heavy education. Ironically, this cause actively proposed by the progressive won some sympathy from the conservative because they promoted creativity education as the orientation of the 21st century’s education policy to secure ‘national competitiveness’ in the age of globalization. Autonomism, excellence [streaming] and creativity in education were suggested as the new direction. Since Kim Young-sam administration, the College Scholastic Ability Test replaced the achievement test and the Ministry of Education began approving textbooks written by private publishers. University admission criteria were also diversified.

However, exam race and open creativity education are the worst combination. Open education costs even more money. They implemented essay education to make up for memorization-oriented education. What was the result like? The intention was good but as long as the exam race is the underlying premise, such education further deepens the rich-get-richer and the poor-get-poorer of education.

There lies the ‘paradox of open education’. It was implemented for the progressive philosophy but that only made polarization of education worse. Western progressive education theorists also experienced this paradox.

All in all, the government has introduced various systems to reduce adverse effects of the exam race but it only got worse. As they try to change and diversify the university admission system, students become even more dependent on private education that excels at quickly adapting to new systems. Therefore, the burden of education expenses has only expanded and reached the current state.

Whether it is the government, the conservative or the progressive, their response to the education issue has been renowned for pathetic incompetence.

Why on earth is this happening? Every Korean citizen intuitively knows the answer. As long as the framework of ‘exam race for elite universities’ exists, no change in the entrance system can stop the overheated education craze in Korea.

Excluding that point, the argument between the conservative and progressive is just like a Gag Concert’s ‘2-Minute/Person Debate’ [a comedy skit]. Discussing how to change the education system, while leaving the social system based on educational background as it is now, is akin to brewing soup with urine and worrying about what spice to add.

Hence, the answer is very simple. Brew the soup with clean water instead of urine. We need to get rid of the chronic education cliques akin to India’s caste system. At the end of the day, the only solution is to standardize universities.

University standardization: the first step to end the zero-sum game for ‘classification’

If you bring up university standardization, some people think it is radical or even label it as communist. However, ironically, during the Cold War, communist countries did not have standardized universities. Moscow University and Kim Il Sung University were institutions for educating elite bureaucrats.

Standardized universities exist in most European countries. It wasn’t always like that. Continental European countries such as France and Germany implemented standardization mostly after the May 1968 protests.

Some people believe standardization will cause students to lose motivation to study and degrade their academic ability. This way of thinking stems from a brainwashed obsession with elitism and competition in Korean society. It can be likened to the situation where a person who grew up with Christianity thinks, without the religion, there will be no standard for ethics.

In any society, there are students who naturally develop interest in academic endeavors. Such students do not need a race to stimulate themselves. Rather, they can be absorbed into studying deeper with their internal motivation. If competition for the route of prestigious high school and university is too fierce, schools have to come up with a fair standard system that focuses on little details to differentiate similarly performing students. The students have to care too much about minor details. Instead of studying broad and deep, they learn how to write exams more effectively. This is indeed the invisible ‘degradation and waste of academic ability’.

Of course, not all students will be interested in studying if the university admission system is altered by standardization. Everyone being a good student is impossible and unnecessary. It’s just like we don’t hope students with no artistic or athletic ability will become excellent artists or athletes. The goal of high school should be to foster sensible citizens and studying at university should be considered only by the students who really has the academic aptitude. It is good even if only 20~30% of high school graduates enter university.

You may ask what I’m babbling about in this infinite competition and knowledge-based society. However, the correlation between economic development and education level is weaker than you may think. Listen to Prof. Jang Ha-joon’s explanation.

Let’s take a look at East Asian countries that are known for education which supposedly played an important role in their economic development. In 1960, Taiwan’s illiteracy rate was 46% which was twice as high as the Phillipines’ 28% but in 20 years, economic growth in these two countries turned out to be the opposite. Between 1980 and 2004, illiteracy rate in Africa dropped from 60% to 39% but their national income decreased by 0.3% every year.

Professor Lant Pritchett at Harvard University tried to examine whether education positively affects economic growth with data collected from tens of developed and developing countries between 1960 and 1987. He concluded there is no strong evidence that higher education level stimulates economic growth.

Koreans may naturally feel that if there are more educated people, the country becomes richer, from their own experience where the country was developed along with education fever. However, why is there no strong correlation between education and economic growth? It’s because education isn’t strongly related to improving productivity contrary to our belief.

From a purely economic point of view, humanity disciplines such as philosophy, music, literature, history, etc. hardly affect most workers’ productivity. It isn’t that much different for science. Physics and biology do not affect those workers in automotive assembly lines.

Of course, the amount of available knowledge is bigger than ever today. However, we can say what each worker should learn has rather decreased with improved productivity in manufacturing industries. In other words, with machinization and automation being commonplace, required skills and knowledge decrease.

Okay, it may be the case for common manual laborers. You may still think rich countries need more advanced workers. However, even in this knowledge-based age, the relation between higher education and economic prosperity isn’t simple. Take the example of Switzerland which is one of the most affluent and industrialized countries in the world.

Until 1996, the university-entering rate in Swiss was only 16% which was less than half of the average rate among the OECD cuntries. In 2007, it went up to 47% but it is still the lowest among the developed countries. Is this because the quality of higher education is too high in Swiss? We may not be able to say their education standard is tougher than the US with the university-entering rate of 82%. This ‘paradox of Swiss’ can be explained by the fact that education does not contribute much to increasing productivity.

Needless to say, there are professions that do require higher education. High-income professionals such as doctors, lawyers, educators and scientists belong to that category. The problem is that higher education is oversupplied in comparision to the demand from society. That is largely because of what you call ‘classification’ in economics.

“Loser, average and winner.”

In many jobs, what’s important is not specific knowledge that you can learn while working but those general qualities such as intelligence, will, organized thinking, etc. Many companies that recruit university graduates look for people with general abilities rather than specialized knowledge. Your educational background or diploma becomes an indicator for this ‘classification’. To get a good job, competition to get into that classification becomes fierce. As the ratio of university graduates keeps increasing past 50%, even those who have no interest in studying and acquiring knowledge enter university to avoid comparative disadvantage. The demand for universities increases along with the number of them.

As there are too many of them, these university graduates do not benefit from the ‘classification’ any more. Now they try to get a master’s degree or a Ph. D. to stand out, which results in the ‘inflation of education level.’

Although this is a general trend around the world, in Korea, educational background is much more emphasized for ‘classification’ and that is already determined while you are in your teenhood. Korea’s university entrance exam hell is caused by the nature of classification and zero-sum game. In addition, high tuitions rub salt in the wound.

In order to get one of the select few ‘good jobs’ by being in the ‘classification’, since little, Korean students endure hellish exam pressure consuming private education expenses. Then they spend expensive university tuitions and focus on building ‘specs’. Their early life passes by like that. In this zero-sum game, 80~90% of them are inevitably supposed to be losers. In this process, they internalize competition, hierarchy and winner-take-all worldview. They end up suffering a sense of failure for the rest of life instead of finding social solutions.

Belatedly, aknowledging this problem, the opposition party suggested several alteratives. One of them is the ‘blind interview’ system from candidate Moon Jae-in. It is a progress in that it’s an attempt to put a brake on the ‘classification’ process that induces fierce educational background competition. However, I doubt its effectiveness considering how practically numerous recruitments can be regulated while the universities are already rigidly ranked.

Same with the ‘demotion of Seoul National University (SNU) and integration of national public universities’ plan that was developed by DLP and accepted by the Democrats. They want to make all national universities includng SNU offer equal quality of education. This is one progressive step away from playing around with entrance exams in the past, but it still turns blind eye to companies’ old practice of ‘classification’ based on the applicants’ university names.

As long as the companies keep regarding the university names as proof of general ability for the ‘classification’, it is nothing but doing good for the elite private universities shadowed by SNU. Therefore, if they can’t standardize the entire universities and control the excessive demand for higher education, such ‘reform’ will only lead to controversies with no effectiveness and end up causing cynicism against reforms. If you have cancer, you have to cut it out. Will you just get a massage because the surgery is hard and risky?

The reason why most Korean parents struggle to give private lessons to their children is not because they want to raise them as extraordinary individuals. They simply want their children to get a job that doesn’t make them worry about making ends meet, buy a house and get married. It is just that it has become hard to realize such humble hope unless they get a highly-paid specialized profession, a big corporate job or a public official position.

Ultimately, the problem is that there are insufficient ‘decent workplaces’ that can let you live a normal life raising kids. Therefore, the current crippled education in Korea is directly related to the crippled labor market and at the core of it is the income disparity.

The source of all evils: income gap and lack of job security

In Korea, income disparity is too severe, depending on the company, type of work and whether it is a permanent or temporary position. Ironically, this income gap began widening since the beginning of the democratic government. If big companies paid you 100, SMEs paid you 63 in 2010. If high school graduates get 100, university graduates get 150. If you consider the university name value as a variable, the gap must be even wider but there is no official data for that. The wage gap between temporary and permanent jobs is even more dramatic. In 2010, temporary workers only received 46.8% of regular workers’ wage.

Even if you follow the golden route to a regular corporate job, 사오정 [get laid off at 45] is an ancient meme and it’s been a while since 삼팔선 [hit the limit at 38] was coined. In Korea’s highest revenue-yielding company Samsung Electronics, the average number of successive years of employement is less than 8 years. Korean workers’ number of successive work years is even shorter than that in the American labor market which is considered to be the most flexible.

Due to this reality, self-employers flourish. 57% of the small business owners make less than a million won per month on average and 80% of them work longer than 10 hours everyday including weekends. Half of them go out of business within 2 years. The social safety net only helps them not starve to death.

Korean economy once had a very thick layer of middle class. I explained in the last article about how Korean economy has been following the path of Latin American economy, opening the Hell Gate of top suicide rate, bottom birth rate and low happiness.

Do we really want to pass down this state of Korea to our children? Can we neglect the reality where you have to push your children to study to death if they don’t want to fall into the pit and students make an exodus for education if their goose parents can afford it? How can you be insensitive to the current situation where even teenagers have the highest suicide rate in the world?

4. Welfare state – will the dreams ★ come true?

Scandinavian national flags share a common trait.

Since around the last congressional election, economic democratization and welfare have become hot issues and there is a growing interest in Northen European countries that seemed irrelevant even only a few years ago. However, many people are skeptical about establishing a similar welfare system that looks unrealistic in Korea.

Nevertheless, without a doubt, I think that is basically where we have to head to. 20 years ago, right before the collapse of Soviet, it was Sweden that chairman Gorbachov called the best among the social systems humanity has ever created.

Some say they cannot be our model because Scandianvian countries like Sweden are small countries with less than 10 million population. This doesn’t make sense if you recall that Korea has considered the US as the ‘global standard’ and followed their way for 20 years. The US has 6 times more population and several tens times bigger territory than Korea. They are a political and military superpower that has abundance of natural resources and they issue dollars as the global currency.

What is the result of aiming to become a ‘little America’ just like Joseon dreamed of being a ‘little China’? Before judging whether the American social system is right or wrong, who has a more similar socio-political environment between the US and Sweden? We should dream of becoming a ‘big Sweden’ instead of a ‘little America’.

First of all, if you do the same work, you get the same pay in Sweden. That is the principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’. Therefore, a lathe worker at Volvo should be paid the same wage as a lathe worker at a small factory. This is the famous Saltsjöbaden Agreement in 1938. At that time, labor unions refrained from going on strikes and owners promised to reduce the wage disparity for low-income workers. The government agreed to offer nearly free health care and education. Due to this social agreement, the companies that couldn’t afford increased wages went bankrupt. On the other hand, because of the controlled wages, sturdy companies became more competitive against similar industries in other countries. In this process, their industry naturally transformed into a higher value-added one.

30~40 years later, such wage policy began causing workers at higher profit companies to complain about their inflexible income. After debates about the wage-earner funds, the wage policy has deviated from the original form but the basic principle has been maintained.

Neighboring Scandiavian countries also have similar wage systems. Let’s listen to Ms. Kim Young-hee who has lived in Denmark.

I often asked Danish people around me whether there are so-called good and undesirable jobs in Denmark. They always gave me ‘textbook’ answers. They said they respect skilled bricklayers as much as highly educated doctors. Their net income gap isn’t big because of the progressive taxation. Bricklayers and doctors have a similar standard of living. Painters and lawyers don’t have a significant income disparity. Vocational school graduates receive lower wages than university graduates but since they begin working earlier, their cumulative income is similar. Highly-paid skilled workers can enjoy a more stable life.

The society where elite schools, better jobs, better pays and a comfortable life are not equated. The relatively equal society where there is no hierachy between people and your job doesn’t determine your standard of living and social status. In such society, people don’t desperately want to go to university.

“Bricklayer: If it weren’t for people like me, you wouldn’t be able to live in a house with roof or walls. Would anybody want that? My job is as imporant as a president of a bank.”
“Interviewer: What is your monthly wage?”
“Bricklayer: 30,000 krona (about 6 million won). I pay a lot of taxes but I think I get back more than I paid. I don’t mean money isn’t important. Everyone wants to make much money. However, it is more important to spend time with my wife and children than to just earn money.”

Through personal travel, internet or media, we have been flooded with information about Northern European welfare states for a while. Many figures such as politicians, public officials, labor union executives and civil activitsts have visited Scandinavian countries to learn their social systems. It is not that we don’t try to apply those systems because we are not aware of them. We just don’t know where to begin.

Progressives express skepticism pointing at low participation in labor unions and strong previleged groups. Conservatives are dismissive while bringing up the current economic and financial state. There are also assholes who even threaten that welfare will perish the country.

Blaming the ‘practicality’, they end up adopting just a few convenient fragments of the system. However, a nation’s social system gains organic functionality from the overall structure and historical context. You can’t just adopt a few policies as if you are shopping and expect to acquire the same effect as in the country of origin. If we just take the curricula of vocational schools in Denmark directly into Korea, will it work smoothly? Danish vocational schools can work successfully because their graduates’ labor is valued properly in the society and there is relatively less excessive demand for higher education.

“Red rose: the symbol of social democracy”

What we truly need to learn and adopt is not just fragmented systems and policies here and there, but the operational principle and philosophy that runs through the entire society. As Hong Ki-bin put it, it should be a consistent socio-economic model that can complement various policies and systems. I would call it ‘social democracy’.

Some may recall the image of old frail Europe and label it as an outdated theory. They imagine as if there is some national rejection to it due to the state of divided Korea. However, as will be discussed in the next article, politics researcher Sheri Berman proved the true winner of the 20th century was not liberalism but social democracy.

According to a survery in 2010, 67% of Korean citizens favored Northern European style welfare. As long as such welfare system can be put in place, they are willing to pay higher taxes. It is the politicians, not the citizens, who aren’t ready yet.

Comments from Ddanzi Ilbo:

Dead on. I’m from the 486 generation and I just made an account to leave a comment. I was skeptical of blindly supporting the opposition party. I changed my view after reading your columns. However, realistically, it will be hard for both Saenuri and Democratic parties to come out of factionism and hate politics. My wife and I can’t even think of having a second kid…but I believe in our people’s power. There are people who write articles like this and read them so at some point, we will be able to change the scene. Once again, let’s believe in people’s greatness.


You got absorbed into the topic too much that you oversimplified the reality and sounded extreme. For example, why would you say the arguments between the conservative and the opposition party have only been an exhaustive frame war that has nothing to do with people’s life? That’s not the case. History always progresses and moves forward little by little. It was certainly a historical progress when Kim Dae-jung implemented local self-governance to weaken the central government’s influence and achieved the regime change. According to your logic, you may say it’s not very different either way, but the fact that the regime can change alone made leaders at least concious of the people and act like servants to the degree that we began to use the word ‘populism’.

In essence, your article prattles that both political parties are the same in the end and people’s life hasn’t improved but there are improvements even by little. What about Kim Dae-jung administration’s investment in IT infrastructure that resulted in today’s active internet culture? The passion for democratization from the regime change made it possible for the online intellect to see through politicians’ bullshit and for your Ddanzi Ilbo to catch false reports of the conservative media. I agree with this recent remark from Ahn Cheol-soo that the reality never fundamentally changes in one step. It only progresses gradually. Your article is burning with passion that says “I know the ideal goal and in order to achieve that, we need to turn over the current situation!” It’s not that Roh Moo-hyun or Yoo Shi-min failed because they didn’t know what you know. We can only try to make changes one by one and step forward even if it’s through petty frame wars and election engineering.


Let’s stop being cynical. In my opinion, it makes things worse when you look at sociopolitical issues from an economic angle. Recently on radio (I live in the US), one politics researcher said voters generally vote for the candidates who go against their economic interest. Maybe it’s not a new fact. Poor states vote for the Republicans and rich states vote for the Democrats. It’s probably the same in Korea. It’s not because they are ignorant and unenlightened. Politics is a matter of ideology. Elected political leaders become symbolic beings. I guess our collective act of electing such president [Lee Myung-bak] in 2007 was a declaration of “we just want to make lots of money” and that became the ideology of Korean society. Economy was given the highest value and everything was gauged by money. This article is also trying to approach the issue from an economic viewpoint. (If you admit that Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun were in fact rightist, it is clear that the new political entity mentioned in this article is the real leftist.) The leftist policy suggested by this article is possible only when the entire society prefers philosophical values such as equality and justice over economic values like welfare and growth. If you only talk about the economic aspect, there is no answer because our greed is endless. Anyway, the national head is a symbolic figure and we have a chance to fix the error we made in 2007. That’s why this presidential election is important before considering how much Korean society will improve. That’s why… Dear Inje, fighting. (I wanted to say this…^^)


The source of all evils or the biggest reason why we can’t make a proper welfare state is because of the value system that is like a broken scale that equally weighs a private room salon scandal and an incident where 6 people were victimized by the authority…


Your article is always lacking. Questioning is good. Okay, let’s say the ruling and opposition parties haven’t been better than the other. Okay, there have been too many quarrels blindly advocating their camps. Now show me the 3rd political party that can realize the walfare system in real life. There are only two months left until the election but you expect the 3rd political party to emerge? What is this? Isn’t politics the reality after all? Don’t you have to build it up one by one in real life? Then what’s the point if you laugh at the arguing camps on your high horse and say they are all the same? In your multiple choice question, you only have 1, 2 and 3. Isn’t it a bad joke if you pick 4? I agree with your overall point but (1) it is something you might say in lecture rooms, not in real politics. (2) While you criticize the factionists, you lump issues of different weights together, which reveals your ‘reverse-bias’.

To make it clear, I share and support your questions and thesis suggested in a series of columns. You said the right things. (1) We should look at the individual results of their policies, not their parties. (2) At the root of the current problems including education in Korean society are the inconsistent reforms based on liberalism. Now we should consider ‘welfare’ as the reformist keyword. They are all right. However, the problem is this.

(1) It is certainly wrong to judge the ‘current’ situation based on the ‘old’ factionism. But you go beyond the stage of objectively reflecting and even seem to think our current political actions can be judged from the 3rd party postion out of nowhere. Such ideas would come from the academics or the conclusion part of a thesis. After reflection, we still have to take the multiple choice question in reality and make a choice, don’t we?

(2) The comprehensive answer for the problems is ‘welfare’. You should’ve emphasized on this. The choice is up to the people. Who will return the ‘state’ on top of the empty civil society destructed by the ‘paradox of liberalism’? Who will demand welfare as a civil right in real politics, fight for it and make it happen? However, what you are saying is that they are all the same due to their past wrongdoings and untrustworthy. You downplay the most realistically progressive compromise. In front of the soliders waiting on an order to charge against overwhelming enemies, you are preaching the ‘futility of life’. In other words, it’s fucking hopeless.


What you consider important is obviously necessary and important but what you consider unimportant is very important, too, to be just pushed aside. For someone who remembers the democracy Pres. Roh Moo-hyun let us taste, the current state of Korea shaped by Lee Myung-bak and his henchmen is, how should I put it, fucking sickening. It unbearably fucking sucks. It is so obvious what future is awaiting if Park Geun-hye wins the election and the Hannara Party returns to power in this situation.

There are people who think Lee Myung-bak did a warm-up for Korean-style democracy and Park Geun-hye’s win will be Park Chung-hee, the king’s return. What would they do in this country? I don’t think I’m being delusional at all. Isn’t this important? I think it is. Lee Myung-bak made our democracy regress by 10 or 15 years to keep the ‘lost 10 years’ pledge. Then Park Geun-hye will void numerous people’s blood and sweat for democracy. /spit


I like your article and I agree with your question but I want to refute a few secondary points.

1. You picked France as a good example of university standardization but France is far from it. There are select few elite universities, some decent ones, and a bunch of third-rate ones in France. Most important social positions are taken by the elite school graduates. You wouldn’t want that…

2. Even if Korea achieves complete standardization of universities, I don’t think that will alleviate the current murderous exam competition. Something else will replace the standard for ‘classification’ that is strongly required by Korean society. It could be English skills or master’s degrees or Ph. D. What’s worse is that rich people can be educated in foreign universities and stand out above all the graduates who studied in standardized Korean universities. That can even prevent poor people from being successful. If we can’t remove the factors causing excessive competiton at the fundemental level, any prescription will breed side effects. FYI, I live in Sweden. I look forward to your next article. However, do not commit the error of focusing only on Sweden’s strength like usual TV shows and expanding your arguments from there.


Thanks for the good article again. I always look forward to your articles. I am conservative but I agree with reforms based on social democracy as long as they stand firmly on national security. I don’t want to pass down the current state of Korea to my children. Education reform may be the no. 1 important thing. I am reminded of the book “Demand” that stressed the importance of background stories. The world doesn’t change with one thing. If we see far and reform in the long run, I believe changes will synergize and create a good country. Be generous to the usual ignorant netizens who are jealous or lack reading comprehension. When I see those who cannot see the big picture but get all nitpicky on peripheral points here and there, I once again realize how our education is flawed. I will look forward to your last article in the series. People like you should be abound in the politics. I’m concerned.


Education hell in Korea will never disappear unless our tendency to look down on people with lesser education background is gone. Korea actually has a caste system like India. It is a society where you are judged by things like your education, income and job. To talk about my personal anecdote, when I was doing an intership at GE in the US 20 years ago, factory workers and engineers definitely did different work and got paid differently. However, what I saw in a company golf tournament on a Saturday was surprising. They mingled and had fun together all day making teams based on their golf skills. What about in Korea? One of my friends in the US was satisfied with being a technician after graduating from college. He found it comfortable to work that much and take responsibility that much. He wasn’t looked down on but in Korea? Of course, things change in the US, too, but still they don’t blatantly look down on people as much.


After reading just one paragraph, I was convinced this article is a load of bullocks. To enable welfare, you have to resolve political problems. The real problem is that political arguments are just presented as an exhaustive frame war. Negatives and personal attacks are a natural part of politics. Politics without emotions is abnormal. The moral high ground is what they use to masturbate. You have to react to negatives either aggressively or passively to uphold a cause and poltics gradually progresses in the process. How many countries have that purely value-oriented politics you guys talk about? Moreoever, when you talk about welfare, you should make the receivers of welfare, who are fallen middle class and low-income people, fucking understand what on earth you guys are talking about. You guys are hopeless.

Also, it is absolutely useless to chatter about Northern European or French style welfare without considering the specific Korean situation. You have to deal with welfare and unification issues together in Korea. Kim Dae-jung you guys bitch about so much advocated the Sunshine policy because he realized that the North Korea problem was an obstacle to not only peace but also our political advancement. If you analyze our economic structure and get cynical about our politics, does welfare just happen? Sometimes, ignorant guys base their sense of superiority on their indifference to politics. I knew where your article was heading to as soon as you used the economic angle. After writing an article like this, can you swallow your Samgyeopsal pieces peacefully? Those who praise an article of this poor level should wake up. This is not Northern Europe but Northeast Asia where the G2 superpowers are doing crazy shit, bitches.

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  • Yu Bum Suk

    Wow that was long. I’m going to have to get really bored during exams (which start today) before I finish reading that.

  • chucky3176

    How can one article get so much right (about all the problems in the Korean education system’s excessive competition, and that the real root of this problem is the job market which sucks), but then get so many things wrong when it comes to suggesting a fix??

    I was nodding with all the points, until I hit the part where Norway and Sweden comes along. Then I stopped reading and chucked my computer against the wall.

    Nice ideal, it won’t work. Korea isn’t Sweden, Denmark, or any of those Northern European nanny states. Those countries succeed despite their handicap, not because of it. In other words, they could have done far better with all the natural abundance of resources in such huge land areas with sparse population to share there natural wealth with. And the article fails to mention that all that equality doesn’t come free, nor cheap. Will there be any Korean here who would like to pay 50% to 60% of their annual earnings to the government? A government that is known to be wracked with ineffeciencies and corruption? No bloody hell Koreans are going to let that happen!

    What South Korea really needs is to reform the labor market. Stop dickering around with worker’s rights, require by law to pay them what they deserve, require by law to give workers the rest and leisure they need after hard work, stop bringing in cheap foreign labor to depress down the wages, let the wages rise, guard the rule of law with jealously, enforce the rule and law, stop all the monopolies, stop all the cheating and favoring the big corporations at the expense of small businesses.

    • jon776

      Oh really? The nordic countries are handicapped and yet manage to top every list of everything we deem good year after year? Wow, I would never have guessed. Hm, so, how can they get rid of this horrible handicap? Should they perhaps… lower their taxes? Privatize hospitals and schools? Get rid of social welfare and once and for all release the full glory of laissez-faire capitalism?

      That’s cute.

      • chucky3176

        Those Nordic countries are resource based economies quasi Communist states.

        If Korea and Nordic countries swapped geographical places, Korea would be a superpower by now with all those natural resources together with all the manufacturing industries. And those Nordic countries living in a tiny divided peninsula with zero natural resources, would be Third World countries where everyone is equally poor because they got nothing to sell.

        • holdingrabbits

          You know who has tons of neighbors and tons of natural resources? More than the Nordic countries? African nations. They’re powerful, right?

          You don’t think that attitudes, styles of governance, or life philosophies have anything to do with it? It’s all location and resources? You don’t think Korea’s long history of isolation and lack of conquest/colonization doesn’t have something to do with that? You don’t think that the kings of Korea kept the people as poor as possible for their own gain, resulting in a continuation of the status quo for generations?

          Korea was a 3rd world country where everyone was poor with nothing to sell. If you think Koreans just picked themselves up by their bootstraps 60 years ago and did it all by themselves without billions of dollars of aid and intervention from foreign countries, then you’re being ridiculous. I’m sure a bunch of rice farmers were sitting around one day and said “What are we doing?! Let’s build a computer!”

          Point is, it doesn’t matter how many resources you have or how great the location is if you have a shitty government.

        • Zappa Frank

          you illude yourself. tell me about finland, denmark, sweden natural resources.. with the exception of norway they don’t have any relevant natural resource (please don’t tell me wood). their economy is not based on export of natural resources.. Besided what’s important? be a superpower or life’s quality of your population?

          • “Besided what’s important? be a superpower or life’s quality of your population?”

            Besides this being a red herring argument, the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, economic prowess has more influence over quality of life than nearly any other factor.

          • Zappa Frank

            the difference of life’s quality between north europe and USA don’t confirm your teory

        • A tiny divided peninsula with zero natural resources?

          You mean Denmark?


        • jon776

          You have no idea what you’re talking about. Denmark has no resources at all and neither does Iceland. Sweden has some forest and a little bit of minerals. Finland has big forests. That’s about it. Only 20% of Swedens exports are natural resources and that does not affect the BNP a lot. The rest is mostly technology. Norway is the only country that lives of its resources. But even if they didn’t have oil, they would still be one of the best countries on the planet.

          If any nordic country and Korea switched places they would do what they have always done. Create great technology.

          The US is a good example of what would happen if any of the nordic countries lowered taxes and privatized everything. In other words, it would suck.

          • chucky3176

            Denmark’s population is barely over 5 million. Norway is 5 million, Sweden 9 million, Finland 5 million, Iceland 300,000. How are those countries any relevant to South Korea who’s population is twice the population of all the Scandanvian countries COMBINED (which is 50 million)? Not to mention the incomparable land masses of those countries combined, compared to third densest country in the world, South Korea. The problem here is that there are just too many people in South Korea competing against each other in a small area. No system in the world will alleviate that unless there’s gradual massive depopulation. Bring Nordic country’s system to South Korea? Are you kidding? It will cause massive chaos and rapid economic depression, in a country that has low trust in its government, once everyone tries to get something for nothing. All the Scandinavian style 50% plus national income tax rates collected, would go straight into the pockets of the crooked politicians instead. High taxes and high social program payouts may seem to work in countries with high trust in its government with sparse populations – but it’s not going to work in South Korea. Look at France, Spain and Greece, those countries examples are way more relevant for South Korea.

          • holdingrabbits

            South Korea is number 23 in density. Interestingly, Netherlands is 24.

          • Melonman

            I agree with the corruption bit, but sort that out and there’s no reason it couldn’t be just like a Nordic country, but on a larger scale. That discounts a plethora of cultural, economic and political hurdles though; some of which may take a long time to break down.

      • It is rarely ever noted that a disproportionate share of scholars who create indices and rank countries according to how warm and fuzzy they are happen to be from the countries with the highest ranks.
        Naturally, they have their own perceptive filters and they arbitrarily decide not only that altruism (for example) is a benefit to society, but how it is to be defined. From that point on, disagreeing with it is a matter of being politically incorrect, and it takes greater courage than most people have to be in the minority of an opinion on the grounds of principle.

    • LOL @ chucky

      • chucky3176

        LOL @ Thuan Bui

    • dk2020

      Remember kBang is made for expats (mostly all white guys) to criticize and ridicule Korean culture and people .. How dare we say anything bad about Europe where’s it’s a utopia of bliss, happiness, and racial harmony if we visit there is no way we will ever get racism .. sometimes you can see unicorns flying over the Nordic countries .. South Korea sucks compared to the US and Europe .. don’t worry though the ESL teachers will save us!

      • Given that you’ve been dominating the comments section for a while, it’s surprising that you still don’t understand who reads the site, what the purpose of it is, and why making ridiculous generalisations all the time only serves to further alienate yourself and give you the impression that everyone hates you.

        • dk2020

          Thats fine James, just saying my piece brother .. I hope you and the few other expats that are understanding and truly respect Korean culture know I’m not talking about you and can understand where I’m coming from.

          Of course it’s hard having your culture being criticized and ridiculed all the time by condescending and ignorant expats offering no real solutions to the issues. The funny thing is we have the same goals, i want South Korea to be multicultural and progress and I still believe it will. I’m just trying to point out all the hypocrisy and irony thats going on because thats truly ridiculous. No one is better than anyone else based on their race, thats bullshit.

          • Erdos

            You have to remember the expats you are speaking to are leftist liberals, as such they are internationalists and believe the entire world needs to follow their historically materialist model of “country develops –> becomes a left-liberal democracy complete with gay marriage and open borders”.

            It’s not really a matter of western exceptionalism, it’s more akin to Trotskyist Internationalism or something.

          • holdingrabbits

            Sure. I don’t mind saying that position is superior to one that says that people shouldn’t speak their minds or express themselves. Some ideas are, in fact, better than others. For instance:

            A) You’re gay? Then go marry a woman, have kids, and meet your boyfriend in the evening…but under no circumstances should you be yourself.

            B) Just be gay.

          • Erdos

            You don’t understand Confucianism and the nature of what it means for a society to be harmonious, because you follow the philosophy of the Enlightenment that distorted Socrates and ‘critical theory’.

            Then again, Korea doesn’t understand Confucianism either.

          • ChuckRamone

            Confucius say: Erdos is an arrogant blowhard.

          • Erdos

            Confucius say: Bragging about how much money you have so shamelessly like noveau riche Koreans not conducive to harmony between social classes.

            Confucius also say: Merchant class inherently untrustworthy wherever you are.

          • ChuckRamone

            Show me a place where nouveau riche do not behave like nouveau riche. Surely, not all newly enriched Koreans are conspicuous consumers? Anyway, it’s obvious you’ve got an axe to grind with Koreans. You’re not doing a very good job of hiding it.

          • Erdos

            I don’t mind Koreans. I just think their American diaspora population are the most likely to push the whole identity politics/ethnic politics shit.

          • ChuckRamone

            In my experience, Asians in American tend to identify more on a pan-Asian scale than in Old World Asia. I don’t see evidence of Korean Americans being more vocal in America about identity politics than any other Asian American group, which would be pretty hard to quantify. Anyway, if you’re gonna take pot shots, be direct about it – I think that’s what you’re doing? But you’re being insinuative.

          • Erdos

            I disagree. If you look at “Asian American Studies”, Koreans are grossly overrepresented proportionate to their proportion of the Asian population and Japanese are underrepresented.

          • ChuckRamone

            Really, do you have numbers of student enrollment? A lot of the founders of Asian American studies back in the 60s and 70s were Japanese Americans. If there are more Korean American students these days, that just reflects the fact there are more recent Korean immigrants than Japanese ones.

          • Erdos

            I just don’t like your hostility towards whites and your “We’re an angry minority too!” posturing Chuck. There’s nothing more to it than that.

          • ChuckRamone

            Are you just picking random stereotypes or things you want to accuse me of and attacking me with them? When have I shown hostility toward whites and “angry minority posturing”? I’m here to discuss Korea, Japan, China, and their relations. I studied East Asian relations in college. That’s why I’m here. Your bringing up Asian Americans, identity politics, nationalism and multiculturalism just screams ulterior motives. When you make weird comments, I question you, but I don’t introduce any of these tangential subjects the way you do.

          • Erdos

            I don’t think of things in a vacuum. For example, I don’t like the way Asian-Americans hold whites to one, higher standard of behavior and then just excuse away the behavior of their co-ethnics at the same time.

            For example: Why should America have such pourous borders? Would any Korean-American accept the same pourous borders for his homeland?

          • ChuckRamone

            Really, I don’t know why you insist on bringing this topic up here. Maybe you should go to a nationalist or immigration discussion forum where people are explicitly discussing it rather than drawing people into it on unrelated subjects. The only thing I can say about it is I can’t tell Koreans what to do, and it’s not up to me if they decide to have porous borders. And what they do should have no bearing on America’s policy. American voters should decide based on what they think is the right thing to do. I would like to point out that, yes, America’s constitution was written by white men who decided to become independent of England. But American culture, American labor, American society from Hawaii to Alaska to Florida have always had quite a mix of contributors, from the very inception of this country. Do you wanna remove rock ‘n’ roll and Spam musubi from American culture? Slave labor and coolies from its infrastructure? Woman suffragists, union activists, and black abolitionists from its society? I guess the country should all be Quakers and Puritans. Let’s just ignore those pesky Native Americans.

          • Erdos

            Funny how you ended on a rambling little invective against the white origins of the United States. Because everyone knows the Far East invented the principles of Republicanism as a philosophical concept. Why, didn’t you know, Cicero, Aristotle and Plato were actually Korean? It’s true!

            For the record, most non-whites in the US don’t care about the US constitution. Look up Goodwin Liu. He thinks the constitution is such that it tells whites to pay reparations to blacks for slavery.

          • ChuckRamone

            I didn’t say anything against it. I’m quite fond of the American constitution and acknowledge it was written by white men. I think it’s one of the greatest achievements in human history. But you can’t deny there’s more to America than that. Seriously, dude, you sound exactly like the angry neo-Nazis on forums like Everyone owes you something, right? And everyone is against the white man in your imagination. But it’s simply not true.

          • ChuckRamone

            Everything about your posts here are a guise, a ruse. You evoke race-based nationalist ideology, which you find on sites like, but you are not upfront about it, and you are constantly niggling about Koreans on KoreaBang, yet you deny being a hater. Just man up and come out of the closet about who you are and what your motives are.

          • holdingrabbits

            That may very well be true.

          • @disqus_8PL1vQhKfV:disqus Trotskyist Internationalism? That’s a new one. Let’s hope no-one ends up with a pick axe in their eye.

            @dk2020:disqus Dale, what you say makes perfect sense, and I fully understand why you would take offense to that kind of thing. I’m not Korean, obviously, but I also find any disparaging or racist comments towards Koreans (or indeed any one group of people) offensive – you don’t have to be Korean to object to that (and, might I add, you’re American, and therefore arguably just as ‘white’ as I am if you want to use the term in the way you seem to interpret it). You must be careful not to start making your own sweeping generalisations, lest you misrepresent the ‘fight’ (fyi, there isn’t one).

            Please also remember; just under 100,000 individuals visit koreaBANG every month – that translates to just under half a million page views every 30 days. Outside of our ‘Western’ audience, the next largest group of visitors hail from South East Asia. There are visitors from South America too. Korea’s an interesting place, to a lot of people. The average article will be viewed by a few thousand people in one week. Of that few thousand people, roughly 20-40 people might actually comment on that article. Of those people, some are just opinionated, and want to share whatever warped or boring view of Korea they have. Others have good points to contribute, and we welcome them. And some just want to troll – we’ve got no time for them.

            You’re incredibly off the mark if you think that that small handful of people who actually do bother/have the time to comment are anywhere near representative of our readers as a whole. That’s not to discourage anyone from commenting (on the contrary), but they’re hardly representative. Rather than engaging with them, and winding yourself (and me) up, why not just sit back and think about things a little more sensibly? Do the opinions of one or two people really represent the opinions of the entire group that they purport to belong to? No. You seem to be perfectly capable of offering a lot more to these threads than the kind of nonsense you’ve been putting out before. Even Chucky, whose opinions are largely objectionable [sorry Chucky], takes time to contribute thoughtful and interesting comments without resorting to name calling or insults.

            I fully resent the ‘kBANG is for white guys to criticise and ridicule Korean culture and people’ comment. All we try and do is represent what’s being talked about on the Korean internet, by Korean netizens. Obviously, there are limitations to what we can choose from a small pool of the most-talked about articles but, on the whole, the site should give non-Korean speaking readers a fairly accurate glimpse of what the Korean media/internet is talking about. All we’re doing is pulling back the curtain a bit on what ordinary Korean people are talking about. The news comes out unfiltered, in all its raw form – because that’s exactly how it comes out in Korea. There is no hidden objective other than to show the outside what’s going on. Who reads an article about some horrible rape in Korea and then thinks ‘god, all Koreans are rapists’? Stupid people do – for everyone else, they probably take some sort of comfort in knowing that, despite the language and culture barrier, this group of lovely, dynamic people share the same kinds of daily concerns and interests as a lot of other people in the world. Despite all our purported differences, we’re all affected by the same things (sorry if that comes across as some sort of fucking Trotskyist Internationalism or something ㅋ).

          • I ain’t white but I don’t mind criticising and ridiculing Korean culture and people :P Mainly because Korean people don’t know how to laugh at themselves (especially when it involves foreigners – they must maintain FACE and positive image of the country at all times)! Us British laugh at ourselves and banta with eachother all day long (especially with foreigners)!

          • Perhaps, but there’s a fine line between banter and acting in a way that you know people will find offensive.

          • Thuan Bui

            If people find giving both positive points as well as negative points about Korea offensive then I prefer not to waste my time with such people

          • dk2020

            Me and my friends clown each other all the time saying racist jokes and laughing at ourselves .. but the difference is you’re not my friend which would make your jokes insulting .. whats funny is I can post your pic and we can all laugh at how funny you look .. now would that be funny to you or insulting?

          • Agreed – I find the Korean sense of humour to be quite self deprecating too.

          • holdingrabbits

            I do appreciate non-slapstick Korean humor. I think self-deprecation is the way to go with comedy.

          • dk2020

            whats annoying about those slapstick shows is they always have to do a quick replay of the punchline .. I noticed they do the same thing on japanese variety shows.. the best is caliente in mexico and wow wow wee in the phils .. smoking hot girls on those shows..

          • ThuanBui

            Being a “foreigner” anything negative (even jokingly) I say about Korea to Koreans was generally taken as an insult to their motherland and they must defend it. Saying that these weren’t close friends of mine but when you have a discussion about topics such as culture and the like (not to mention outright asking me what I think of Korea and Koreans), I am not going to be positive about everything am I? Or is being fake a good way to maintain and develop a friendship? If so then that is news to me.

            Plus I’ve met plenty of people (from other countries – I live in London [50% of people are international]), who are not my close friends, and have plenty of banta. I don’t see that happening with Koreans anytime soon.

            For me, if you say shit about UK, you won’t be seeing me leap to UK’s defence for the sake of national pride, FACE and all that stuff that makes you love a country so much that it clouds your judgement and reasoning :P

          • dk2020

            Like I said I can take jokes from friends but not insults from strangers .. thats called having honor and trying to live with a little dignity.. you never got bullied in the UK for being Oriental? Or you just laughed it off huh .. smh cowards do that ..

          • ThuanBui

            Dude the fuck really? I lived in Korea for a year! I studied at 연세대학교 어학당! I speak Korean! 우리는 한국어로 이야기할까요? I majored in Korean studies and business for four years! Don’t give me this shit about no Korean friends and any practical experience with Koreans!

            And your comment just proved my point, you can’t take negative comments (not insults) or banta about your country from strangers. Honour hahaha laughable, we playing Call of Duty??! Chill the fuck out man

          • dk2020

            What the fuck are you bitching about then if you lived there for a year? you should understand Koreans aren’t open like that, but once you get that trust and friendship it’s different .. I don’t know how the fuck foreigners don’t understand that .. duma mai!

          • dk2020


            Green Street Hooligans .. I can relate to these Brits more than you ,,

          • Thuan Bui

            LOL you are making me out to be some posh guy who don’t understand the mean streets of Britain. I was raised in Manchester , which had high gun crime (

            Yes I was bullied for being an oriental and also for being fat. Which made me very self-conscious about my image/looks and destroyed my confidence. But when life hands you shit, you learn to deal with it, improve yourself and be better than those people as a person.

          • Kate

            No when life hands you shit, you bake pies with it in it and hand out to motherfuckers with a smile ^_^♥♥♥

          • Thuan Bui

            Firstly I wasn’t bitching. Its a discussion and I was giving an opinion based on my experience. Now if you wish to see that as me insulting your country then again you proved my point. Secondly, you are thinking everyone who comes on here has no understanding of Korea and Korean people! I think everyone must have some understanding or else we wouldn’t be here. Don’t class all of us in the likes of people who are only concern about kpop/kdrama with dreams about going to or living in Korea!

          • dk2020

            That’s good then I agree with you and I guess I’m the same way, I don’t take shit from nobody .. I have enough friends and I’m picky who i hang out with ..cheeky cunt ..

          • Sillian

            If you removed the first pair of brackets and ‘especially’, it would make more sense because Koreans with other Koreans crack some serious jokes.

          • dk2020

            I’m 2nd generation Korean American, I’m not white and I didn’t grow up with white people. The only white people in Ktown back then were cops and teachers. I was raised by Korean immigrants so I do think i have a better understanding of Korean culture then the average white expat. Witnessing the LA riots and how gyopos dealt with it, I know what its like being despised for being Korean. That’s why it is so surprising to me now that K-Pop is global and Korean culture is actually getting noticed over China and Japan. I really do appreciate the love and respect I have been seeing from the Latin American countries because my wife is Mexican American.

            Yes, my comments can be more thoughtful and I am trolling sometimes but only to the people that have insulted me first, I’ll try and chill but I don’t like the comments that are blatantly racist, it is easier going on JC or CS though because its not Koreans being ridiculed even though I don’t support that kind of criticism because its not constructive and at most times redundant.

          • Appreciated Dale, and I’m always impressed at how humbly you respond to this kind of thing.

            Anyway, who were these white people that were cops and teachers? Were they Russian? Because a lot of them are white…

          • dk2020

            Thanks James, you know I’ll give you that respect hyung nim because I think you deserve it .. I’m trying to get it to where we don’t see racial differences at all but that’s hard because white culture is so dominant in the world. I do have one close white friend that I grew up with that’s a Russian Slavic Mormon and I’m Godfather to his kids who are half Filipino. We would make him drive so the cops wouldn’t pull us over ahaha and when the cops did harass us they would treat him the worst because he hung out with the bad Asian kids.

          • “I was raised by Korean immigrants so I do think i have a better understanding of Korean culture then the average white expat. ”

            The problem that most people have with this kind of comment is that you believe you are justified in ignoring the merits of other views by virtue of your own background. Have you ever wondered why businesses so often hire outside consultants to fix internal problems? The reasons are numerous, but one tops them all: insiderism. People too often fall prey to the belief that their experiences or affiliations as an insider give them some moral authority to judge or assess not only the group they claim membership to, but also all critiques of it. This is known in formal logic as argumentum ad verecundiam, and it violates the principles of debate, which you seem keen to engage.

            It would be to your added benefit if you engage in discussion on the individual merits of each argument, and not fall prey to the mistaken belief that your race or experiences matter.
            To give an example of this, I had an exchange with another commenter on these boards a while back over the tax code of the U.S.; the other person was Canadian, which I never brought into discussion, and I also never brought my credentials into the discussion, although I certainly could have. You learn quite a lot about people’s willingness to entertain an argument on its own merits, not to mention the merits themselves, when you don’t rely on self-assigned moral authorities to make them.

          • dk2020

            What merits do you have? You’re a jerk that thinks you’re better than Korean men in Korea just because you’re white. You don’t know the language or the culture and you expect everybody to be nice to you without even knowing you .. respect is earned not given especially how it is in Korea .. yeah buddy keep thinking all that culture shock you are going through is racism against you ..

          • Brett

            dk, I can’t help but point out that I think you are doing more damage to your argument than you know by going back to the “white people can’t understand Korea” line. It’s outdated thinking.

          • dk2020

            Brett .. you should know I’m not talking about you bro, I know you’re one of the few open minded expats on here, I respect you and your opinion .. but I am talking about Noah by his character individually, since he can make all these assumptions about Korea I can’t make any assumptions about white people? It really irks me when a white guy says he knows more about being Korean than I do because that’s my heritage .. that’s like me saying I know what it’s like being a white man which I don’t ..

          • You know virtually nothing about me, dk. For that matter, you don’t know the extent of my knowledge of Korea and Korean culture. You misconstrued my words and have entirely missed the point of my argument. When did I ever say that I think I’m better than anyone, let alone for being white? I offered a plausible explanation based on widely accepted economic theories for why some Korean women might prefer to date white men, as that is an observed, but little understood behavior. If you don’t understand simple economics terminology and theory, then you should take that as an opportunity to learn, rather than flip out and resort to name-calling, threats of violence, and other behaviors that just make you look foolish.

            You also misunderstood the point of my post in this thread; I’m not saying that either of us knows more or less about Korea. I probably know more about some things, and you probably know more about other things. What’s important is that we have different perspectives, and therefore we may come to different conclusions on the same set of facts. My point (one of) was that your conclusions are not made more valid by virtue of your race. To think so would indeed be indefensible and racist.

          • dk2020

            Dude, I’m just going by what you’ve been saying, Why are you so worried about other people’s personal relationships when you don’t even got a girlfriend? You can use all these big fancy words and your scientific observations but that’s not real experience and that doesn’t change my opinion about YOU not all white men in Korea.

            C’mon comparing business logic and market research to real life relationships isn’t really comparable geek boy lols. Every relationship and circumstances are different anybody that’s been in a relationship can tell you that, How many girlfriends have you had? Doesn’t sound much to me. You do not have more knowledge than me about Korea, or you wouldn’t be having so much culture shock. First step to enlightenment, accepting things for the way they are..

          • The rest of your post does not warrant a response, but to clarify, having an old lady spit at you then start rabidly cursing is not a culture shock, it’s an offense. In fact, it’s a criminal offence because it’s against the law in Korea.

          • dk2020

            There you go with the you’re better than me attitude but whatevers man .. I’ve experienced worse racism then some old lady spitting on me so that’s real petty to me that you’re holding a grudge over that .. are you still a virgin?

          • namepen

            White expats who actually live in Korea ususally have quite an interesting insight into Korea and its culture. Those who have Korean language skills even more so.
            You must also remember that most white people don’t live in the US neither do most East Asians. Your experiences whilst interesting are very much specific to the US.

          • dk2020

            Srsly? Lets go by the numbers and statistics shall we? 23,000 ESL teachers 1:4 foreign women to men ratio and most have been in the country for less than 2 years, thats out of the 1.2 mil foreigners in Korea.. Yes, there are a few quite knowledgeable and insightful but most are pretty ignorant which is why they are having a hard time adjusting to life in SoKo. Times are changing though and what’s really changing the country are the migrant wives bringing about real social reform ,, Most WM/KF couples have done nothing to help in the struggle just complaining/ridiculing the culture then running away leaving Korea..

          • Paul M

            It’s not that we don’t want to help in the struggle, it’s just that we’re constantly made to feel like outsiders (despite learning the language and eating the food etc.) that we feel like we have no right to address any problems Korean society faces. Especially when we get Korean-Americans saying white people are unable to understand Korea and Korean culture.

          • dk2020

            I’m not saying all just some, like a couple expats on this board .. I give you props for trying to make a life in Korea. Instead of Korean women marrying to move to another country which has usually been the case since the 50’s, which is understandable to escape poverty. You gotta admit though the migrant wives have put a bigger effort into assimilation and reforming of Korean society even though their history only goes back to the mid 90’s. The irony being they are women mainly from Southeast Asia who deal with more discrimination in SoKo then white men. This article gives me hope ..

          • Paul M

            Well, despite me being here for the long term I am going to be a spectator rather than a mover when it comes to social issues. Being white and speaking out about social injustices in Korea will only get me flak for being a condescending post imperialist/colonialist snob and then I’d be branded a racist or a white supremacist to boot. As I said, it’s not that I’m unwilling to integrate and help reform It’s just easier for Koreans to hear such things coming from a SE Asian woman than a western white man. Yes, SE Asian women deal with more discrimination but it doesn’t make me feel any better when I get groups of kids pointing and laughing at me or when people move away from me on the subway or the bus or ajumas talking shit about you behind your back (I know exactly what waygook nom means) or the nasty glares I get from people when I walk down the street with my wife or when another sensationalist tabloid journalist spout crap about western men being AIDS infected drug addicted alcoholic paedophiles or when a bus driver ignores me and drives right past or when a taxi driver ignores me but then stops to pick up Koreans standing 20 feet away from me. But hey, I’ve got broad shoulders and I can put up with it, but I hate it when Koreans get hurt when I don’t have a happy happy smiley view of Korea.

            I wish Jasmine Lee all the luck in the world and I hope she can raise public awareness and improve the lives of immigrants. However there is a lot of damage done with the ‘pure blood ethnicity’ myth that has been taught for decades prior that she has to strive to overcome, I hope she has the strength and support to succeed. Yet Jasmine Lee’s story is just one in thousands of stories some of which are not so happy and one ending tragically

          • dk2020

            Well I have to believe in the happy stories like my own which give me strength, I can give stories of the same kind of racism that I’ve experienced in the US but what good does that do? Yes I know white men will probably get a bad rap if they try to be political but I think they should somehow support the migrant wifes being both foreigner groups with the same goals .. it seems like whites cut themselves off from other minorities and there is division even between each other ..

          • Sillian

            There are people like 박노자 (Russian Korean) and 이참 (German Korean) but they are working as ‘insiders’ because they got naturalized.


            Unfortunately it seems PC umbrella in mainstream media doesn’t extend for western white males as many seem to think they are rather privileged in an economically strong position compared to any other minorities. There are no rights group for them afaik.

          • namepen

            Korea isn’t Narnia, it is not some strange indecipherable world. Many EFL teachers (even the ones here for a year or two) will have faced the same day to day struggles as Koreans here. They will have talked to the ever increasing number of english speaking Koreans and through work, life and friends come to understand more and more about Korea. They are not experts but they do have some understanding.

            Actually being in the country and experiencing the day to day year in year out does add something to your knowledge about a place.

            Also I think it is more often the terrible working conditions that account for why so many leave. That and the whole system is built for those looking for a year or two break, there is no real career progression on offer.

          • dk2020

            I dunno the English comprehension is still pretty bad in Korea with lots of everyday grammar mistakes. What will happen when the ESL fad is over which I think might happen soon because of educational budget cuts ..

          • namepen

            Thanks to China and India the english fad will never be over.

            Although you are right about budget cuts, things will change. However, SK’s government education spending is proportionally on par with Botswana. Any budget cuts are likely to lead to a huge upsurge in the demand for 원어민 in the private sector. Good news for us hagwon monkeys.

          • dk2020

            Only time will tell .. whether your experience is good or bad is ultimately up to you ..

    • Erdos

      Completely agree Chucky.

      The Scandinavian welfare state is completely unsustainable too, and this is coming from someone who thinks welfare states are a good thing. They’re also way too liberal on immigration (Africans are something like 7 times as likely to be unemployed as native Norwegians).

    • Kate

      I agree the most with your last statement on enforcing work laws.

  • holdingrabbits

    “In this zero-sum game, 80~90% of them are inevitably supposed to
    be losers. In this process, they internalize competition, hiercharchy (sic)
    and winner-take-all worldview. They end up suffering a sense of failure
    for the rest of life instead of finding social solutions.”

    Speaking truth to power.

    • chucky3176

      It’s more to do with Korean people’s internalization, rather than the system that’s wrong. You can take the best system in the world and apply to South Korea, South Koreans will still never ever be happy with what they got.

      • holdingrabbits

        That may be true. I think you’re generally right that Koreans don’t know how good they have it. I think Korea works for a lot of people, but the economic disparity and the level of poverty some people live in is sad. The current system is set up to end like America with big wage gaps and less job security. I think that the only way Korea is going to continue moving forward economically is if they drop the notion of constant competition. People in America are just now getting tired of it, but the damage has been done. If there was one thing that I think would make Korea more livable for Koreans, it would be if the 전세 system was gone. People are putting their life savings into apartments with no economic benefit to them as an individual, while one person/group of people reap the investment rewards of all that money. Anyway, there are too many apartments in Korea to justify the high cost of key money. It seems like there are more apartments in Korea than people, and yet it is the most expensive thing most people will have to spend money on. Economic development could skyrocket if that system was changed and people were able to keep more of their own money.

        • dk2020

          The same can be said for any youth during this “me” generation thats grown up with the internet and is used to instant gratification ..

          You should know apartments/rent/land is the most important commodity in Korea same as in Japan, because land is so scarce because they both small countries .. or you dont know about skyhigh rents in LA or NY in prime locations?

          • holdingrabbits

            Right, exactly. LA or NY have expensive apartments because they’re prime locations, but bumblefuck Korea isn’t Manhattan…so why would I pay an insane deposit or, God forbid, buy an apartment for 200,000$? It’s a big ponzi scheme as well. Do you think that everyone could get there money back tomorrow? Nope. I just don’t think that money is all there. It seems to me that there’s a housing bubble in Korea and investing 40,000$ or more in an apartment seems like a really bad idea currently.

        • chucky3176

          With very low interest rates being the norm for number of years now, the Chonse system (which is what we call key money deposit system) is definitely being phased out, in favor of the monthly rental fee system that you have in the West. There are some Koreans who welcome this change, but then there are more who don’t. South Korea is overbuilt precisely at the time when families are getting smaller and smaller, and less people getting married and having children. People want smaller affordable apartments.

          • holdingrabbits

            That’s really encouraging to hear.

  • Harald Hårfager

    What an amazing effort to translate this marathon of an article! Much cred to the translators! /A lucky Swede

    • Kirsty

      I agree!!! What a feat! I’m very thankful. This was extremely interesting.

  • chucky3176

    Here are the 15 best countries to live in 2011, according to UN.

    South Korea is only ranked 12th from the list. But the only Nordic country that’s above South Korea is Norway. Denmark looks interesting because it sounds like they’re not so well, as everyone claims.

    • Ralph

      Ireland No. 5? Are they having a laugh? Speaking as an Irish person, that has got to be a joke.

      • chucky3176

        I’ve never been to Ireland so I can’t say. But all I can do is guess and say that it looks like a joke, because these were published in 2011, and so they’re looking at 2010 data, just before Ireland got bailed out by the IMF.

        Ireland, along with Iceland, and Greece, where their welfare systems bankrupted them. They’re all trying to reform their economies so that they can become more like South Korea ironically. But yet here is South Korea, trying to become more like the bankrupted West. That’s what makes me scratch my head.

      • Have to vote up this comment ^^

      • redgirls

        With you on that one, Ralph. Austerity Ireland at No 5. wtf?
        Our sixth austerity budget in four years just yesterday .
        Well thanks for the laugh anyway, Chucky.

        • chucky3176

          It’s like this. I am not a rich guy either. But I can use my new bank credit card I got today, buy lots of things with it, and everyone will think I’m rich. Heck I am rich! Look at all the free things I have bought with my debt funded credit. Live for tomorrow, who cares? I will just pay the small interests on it, since I can afford it. Nice clothes, nice car, nice house, and nice relaxed body because I never have to work too hard.. I have my credit card… just charge it.

          It’s all debt funded yes, but who’s to say that I’m not living a good life at the moment? Who’s to say I’m not living better than my neighbor? I am happier also because I don’t have to work hard. Compared to my neighbor with no credit, who’s working like a dog just to keep up with his bills, I am happy because I have all the things I need, and I feel rich.

          If you think about it, what I just described is really not much different from the state of this world currently.

          The West looks rich right now, because the creditors are still happy to lend them money. But they cannot sustain their current system forever. If they’re going to keep their standard of living, they have to change their system, because it doesn’t take much to fall out of the rankings of highest standard of living in such a short time.

    • Who are the UN asking in their surveys? Real Koreans or the Westerners who go over there to teach English (which they are not qualified) and being paid way too much (and way above average salary for a typical Korean) to do a shit job? I mean if they were doing a good job, we’ll have more Koreans speaking better English and their parents won’t have to fork out so much money for them to study abroad. But alas we don’t! Yippeee!! :P

      • chucky3176

        This is not a survey. It’s an annual study done by UNDP, it’s called the Human Development Index that compares all the economic, education, life span, healthcare systems, human rights, etc, statistics from every country in the world, then they come up with the rankings.

        I have traveled throughout the world, and I really think Koreans just don’t know how much good they have, compared to the most. It’s always the grass is greener on the other side for Koreans. It’s really no different from people outside of Korea who watches Korean dramas all day long, then holding up Korea as some kind of paradise. And then when they get to Korea and see the real Korea… it’s…XXXXX.. shocked. The reality is always different, every system have their strengths and weaknesses, just because they’re Nordic countries full of white skinned people, their system is not neccessarily superior.

        • Hehehe chucky, you sure make me laugh. Thanks! ^^

          GOD I hate Korean drama so much, you don’t know how much! We should have burn Korean dramas on a bonfire day! In my old university 80-90% of people are learning Korean for the drama (or kpop) and the hope of going on the year abroad in Korea for language study. They don’t pass their exams while in Korea because they spend the whole year chasing around their favourite kpop artists (like Justin Bieber fans) and attending concerts. Their Korean still suck so much (but better than most foreigners in Korea) and then when they come back they switch degrees in order to pass because their Korean suck (at higher level Korean we study translation). But they so desperately in love with Korea and think its amazing, they graduate and end up in Korea….teaching English! Heavens sake, I am sure you don’t need a degree to do that, only for official 학원 but even then some places will still take you! Why waste all that time and money!

          As Chris Rock once said, if you are white, everything’s gonna be alright! Korean people love white people (despite the discrimination and all the other crap) cos its cool to have white friends (and introduce them to your peers to make them jealous) and leech English of them (even date them for English). Even if you are a loser from the West, you are a king in Korea (and Asia) :P

          Oh look, I just had a minor rant hahahahaha! See what you do to me chucky? :P

          But I agree Koreans don’t know how good they have it! Koreans will always want more

          • chucky3176

            I don’t know what country you’re from, but I agree with you.

          • ThuanBui

            British-Vietnamese (born in Vietnam and they are crazy about Korean drama over there as well) living in London

          • Sillian

            If you speak Vietnamese, you should consider making VietnamChop or sth :p

          • Sillian

            Lol the way you talk is hilarious xD

          • ThuanBui

            Hehehe You should see it in real life! its the same in real life as it is online hehe!

        • Kate

          I never saw a Korean drama until last night for the first time.

          • Sillian

            They make so many. I’d say 1 drama in 10 is interesting and 1 in 20 is recommendable. Korean movies tend to be much more gritty and memorable.

          • Kate

            I don’t mean this to sound negative but I actually had a hard time telling actresses apart and because they look so similar, I getting kept confused who was who.

          • Sillian

            Lol which one did you watch?

          • ThuanBui

            They need to stop doing freaking love triangles all the time or the prince and the poor female servant crap! I for one have never ever been in a freaking love triangle! It probably happens to like 1% of the world’s population and no doubt its a result of a major playboy (or playgirl) not being able to manage his women (her men) :P

            Kdrama has created a generation of Korean girls (and girls in other countries) who think their ideal husband needs to be a prince (or men in Korea are all princes)! Boy are they in for a shock.

          • chucky3176

            The problem with Korean dramas is that it’s written by Korean women.

          • Thuan Bui

            LOLOLOLOL that I did not know! Shows you just how much kdrama interests me ;)

          • Ralph

            I like them. I watch quite a lot of them and although some are formulaic, the standard of acting is actually quite high. I feel that they resonate with me on a more emotional level than a lot of western drama does, which frankly is just far too cynical nowadays. Anyway, my Korean teacher actively encourages me to watch them as she said it will help me with my pronunciation so for me they are educational tools. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

          • Sillian

            Lol and there are too many magical coincidences. Have you watched Gag Concert? There is a comedy skit called 불편한 진실. They make fun of drama cliches every week. It’s damn funny. xD

          • holdingrabbits

            “Iris” is a good time. I don’t care for many others though.

          • chucky3176

            Anything Lee Min Ho, I try to stay away from. I’m not a fan of shows like Goong, Boys Over Flower, Dream High, and other teeny bopper dramas. Anything with Lee Yeo-Won in it, I like, but then again that’s only probably because she represents my age group. The 49 Days (2011) was excellent believe it or not. Full House (2003), and Kim Sam Soon (2005), both are classics. Right now I’m watching “Horse Doctor” (with Lee Yeo-Won in it again). I agree with Sillian, a few out of the many are good, and a bit more are watchable, but at least half to three quarters, I can’t stand the usual formula. Korean dramas will give you the good basics of Korean culture, but half of it is unrealistic total fantasy mixed in with bits of current realities of Korean life. For instance, most Korean mother-in-laws are not evil, and they get along with their children in-laws OK, nor do most married Koreans look forward to live with their parents-in-laws in a very strict household environment. In reality Korean families have mother, father, and one kid. Multi-generation families are of the distant past that TV stations who would like to push their ideal social values onto Koreans, continue to push. Rich people don’t mix with poor people, turning many women into Cinderellas – that’s pure fantasy.

          • ThuanBui

            I hope the drama watching doesn’t continue after last night!! I saw Full House (except for 송혜교 being so freaking hot), it certainly stopped there in terms of Kdrama. I was left to wonder if scientists have created memory wiping machine or a time machine yet :P

      • chucky3176

        Of course, this doesn’t mean that UN’s HDI study is not free from criticism. The main criticism of this study is that it puts too much emphasis on material wealth, and not enough on ecological and environmental effects. It also fails to measure the happiness of its citizens. If these were measured into the study, then rankings for Korea will definitely fall. But how do you measure intangible assets like happiness other then relying on surveys, when Koreans are not generally happy people wherever they live?

    • Erdos

      Denmark’s also one of the Scandinavian states with the strictest immigration laws, although the EU is doing their best to change that unfortunately.

    • jon776

      Think you skipped number 9. Not to mention most other nations there are all welfare states. Austria, Canada, New Zealand and Netherlands. Also, how the heck did the US end up as number 4th? What a joke. It certainly is good in certain areas, but in general, US is not even close to the top.

  • J-F

    Why in the world would Korea want a welfare state? To follow the steps of the rest of the ‘developed world’ (i.e OECD) towards sovereign insolvency? Gimme a break… We already have far too many examples that welfare states ultimately collapse under the weight of debt.

  • J-F

    I want to buy Samsung shares.

  • chucky3176

    Korea Provides Free Universal Daycare

    The new government will go ahead and institute
    free universal daycare for all families, regardless of their income
    level. They will also expand the program for child allowance, giving
    $200 per month for each child. Previously only the poor received the
    allowance, but now the program is expanded to all income levels. … 28002.html

    I guess it’s only fair that this system be in place for all Korean
    families too, after multicultural families were given this same
    priviledge two years ago. So now they’re just catching up, and making
    it fair for all, irregardless of race and ethnicity.

    But holy cow, this is far more generous than some Western nations. I don’t think
    there is a totally free daycare for everyone regardless of income level
    in the US and Canada. I’m not sure about Europe though. But this is
    insane, why would you waste funds on free daycare to rich people who
    shouldn’t need help? This is one big pork barrel project.

    They’re now talking about free university tuition for all students, right after
    they put in place free school lunch programs for all students last
    year. I guess it would be very nice to become doctors and lawyers
    without paying anything. It would be much more generous than North
    America. The logic of the universal lunch program was that they didn’t
    want to stigmitize the poor students with free lunches for the poor
    only, so they opened the program for all income levels. But I hear that
    many of the lunch go uneaten, all the food get thrown away, and it’s
    all waste of government funds. For god sakes, help the poor people,
    but don’t waste public funds on people who don’t need it!

    • chucky3176
      • Ralph

        This is very, very generous. Free daycare for all under 5s regardless of parents’ income? That will cost an absolute fortune! I know that childcare costs in the UK are astronomical but I don’t know about the rest of Europe. Anyway, I agree with you, Chucky, it should be means tested. Certainly, the poorest people should be supported, but why should the rich get this handout? If I was a Korean taxpayer, I would be furious at my hard earned taxes going to the wealthy in handouts.

        • chucky3176

          In addition to subsidized child care, tuition, lunch meals, and greatly expanded services for the working poor, Korean government have announced they will revamp the Korea’s national health insurance to expand the coverage, to cover all serious illnesses. At least for the latter on health care, I agree that’s a good ideal. But for the rest, I’m not so sure.

          But this is what Korean people want, so that’s what they’re gonna get from Korean populist driven governments. Local papers report that Korea next year will be spending 30% of the national budget on welfare programs. This estimate will now put South Korea, only behind France and Denmark, in the proportion of their budget on welfare spending, and even higher than all the Nordic countries of Norway, Finland, and Sweden! South Korea is going from second lowest spender of welfare in OECD in 2009, to third most spending nation in OECD in 2013 – all just in four years time. This is an incredible turn of events for this country that will make or break the future of Korea. Mark the year 2013 for South Korea as the year that things have changed for either for the better or for worse. We will find out in twenty years what this will mean for us, I guess. But it’s ironic that it’s a Conservative government who are putting all these in. You would expect the opposition labor party would do something like this, but to be fair, their programs are even more expensive than the Conservatives.

          • Ralph

            Where is the money coming from to pay for these proposals? Are taxes being increased?

          • chucky3176

            There is raise in minimum tax rates on the conglomerates. Other proposals include closing tax loop holes, cutting of government waste, and cutting of spending. I would say there’s been a little bit of increase, but not nearly enough to totally carry the costs of the new spending, which by the way, also includes such wasteful welfare subsidies like minimal income guarantees to taxi drivers. Most of the increases will probably have to be added to the national budget deficit, and also cutting of spending. For instance, take the example of the free lunch programs for students. It’s great that students are given free lunches at school, but many schools have now had to cut down on heating/airconditioning, school services, and maintaining of other school facilities due to cutting of funds to pay for the lunches. Free lunch yes great, but inferior education for all. Sounds like Cuba’s healthcare system.

          • Kate

            That’s awesome Chucky. As far as daycare, daycare costs a fortune in the usa. In my area (countryside and small town), daycare costs are about $800 a month but in places such as NYC it can be upwards of $1200 a month. There is no such thing as free childcare and because of that reason many women are stay at home moms and families virtually live in poverty until the child can go to school or parents find something cheaper or a family member. Plus I do not trust any daycare, there are many horror stories about daycares. A local daycare 5 mins from my home was shut down and the employees and owners prosecuted because they were duck tapeing infants mouths shut with their pacifer in it……….just recently a man was arrested for raping 25 babies at a daycare, many daycare stories about children being left alone without supervision, one story a lady left children alone at her daycare and it burned down killing every child in it. Over the summer daycare workers left a baby in a van and it died in the heat. Yeah so many awful stories. The problem is that daycare workers are generally lowly educated and lowly paid and the job attracts lazy, dumb people and sometimes pedophiles.

          • chucky3176

            Awesome?? They’re increasing taxes on the middle class. It used to be that up to $40,000 in earning, the income tax rate was a fixed rate of 15%, then any income over that, it’s a progressively higher rate. But after the new tax boost goes into effect, that 15% income tax rate only applies up to $20,000. After that it’s progressively increasing rate based on income. This is a huge increase in tax for the middle class, that will discourage savings, and it may just be the beginning.

          • Flat rate of 15%? $40,000? $20,000? What country are you talking about?
            The U.S. tax rates are completely different, and it depends on your filing status (single, married filing joint, head of household, etc).
            That aside, I would agree that taxes are going up for the middle class, but the impact on savings is neutral. The increase in dividend tax rates could change investment behavior and encourage people to invest in growth stock or other securities instead of blue chips, but it wouldn’t on its own discourage saving (wealth taxes and inflation tend to have that effect).

          • chucky3176

            I’m talking about South Korea. Income tax rate is 15%. Or check that, WAS 15% for income under 40 million won per year (roughly just under $40K). Now it’s 15% only up to 20 million won per year (roughly just under $20K). Anything over the maximum, are higher rates depending on the total income.

          • Got it. With amounts in dollars I assumed you were talking about the U.S.

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