South Korea Case Study: Richer but not happier

In many ways, South Korea is the poster child for the key challenge ufabet facing many developed countries. Over the past two generations, South Korea has gone from being one of the poorest to one of the richest countries in the world.

Richer but not happier

Richer but not happier

While grandparents may remember famine, their grandsons and granddaughters enjoy some of the highest standards of living in the world, while the country holds top positions in life expectancy, health-care efficiency and proportion of people with a university education. The economic growth achieved by the South Korean people is quite simply an amazing achievement.

Coming back to Copenhagen after visiting Seoul feels like travelling ten years back in time. However, the country is struggling to convert its new-found wealth into well-being. South Korea ranks fifty-fifth in the World Happiness Report of 2017 and, more alarmingly, it has top ranking when it comes to suicide rates in OECD countries.

Inequality: When wealth is not the key to happiness

Inequality: When wealth is not the key to happiness

South Korea also sends more visitors to our Happiness Research Institute than any other country. South Korean politicians, mayors, journalists, university students and professors have all come in search of ways to improve the quality of life in their country. ‘For many years, we have been looking at the US as the big role model, one told me. That is where we wanted to take the country. But now we are not so sure that’s the way we wish to go any more.’

And the US is a key example when it comes to looking at how we have failed to transform wealth into well-being. While the US has achieved economic progress and an accumulation of wealth over the past half-century, this has not resulted in an increase of happiness for the people. One of the reasons for this is inequality.

If a country doubles in wealth but go per cent of that wealth goes to the richest 10 per cent, that is not growth. That is greed. And no, Gordon Gekko, when it comes to happiness, greed is neither good, nor does it work. And your braces look stupid.