Some people realize that S. Korea is a modern economic miracle. When American helped them throw Japan out of S. Korea, S. Korea was the poorest country in the world, but now a days, it is one of the richest countries in the world. Mostly, the people’s desire to raise as well as some good laws helped them develop.
The S. Korean people were determined to pull themselves up. They began working not only all day long, during the normal work hours, but they also worked all evening long and didn’t ask for overtime pay. They pushed themselves trying to make their companies good companies. If the companies are good, it is good for the economy. Even after things began going better, the S. Koreans didn’t stop working overtime, and the country just continued to rise. Their lives became work. There were family members at home, but they basically ignored them and their life became their work. My Korean boss said to me there is a difference between S. Koreans and Americans. The Americans work to live, and the S. Koreans live to work. They made work more important than anything else in their lives. Korea doesn’t have many natural resources because they are so small, and they consider the Korean people as their natural resource.
Another thing that made their rise economically is the government making laws that allowed them to give influxes of cash to big companies, and thereby those companies could employ more people. The South Korean government gave large amounts of cash to Samsung, and possibly to other big companies too like Hyundai, SK, and LG. Everyone in Korea knows that Samsung is the company to work for. They not only have good salaries and benefits, but also special apartment buildings built especially for people who work for Samsung.
All the Koreans wanted to move into the high rise apartments and abandon their traditional style homes, the Han-oks. The Koreans build the tallest buildings in the world. The first year I was there, I lived on the 24th floor of an apartment building in a small town, and it was not the top floor. There were several floors above mine. Now a days, some of them are going back to the Han-oks and modernizing them now they have earned money. They wanted the apartments because they had indoor plumbing, heating and cooking without wood, etc. Everyone has indoor plumbing and heating and cooking without wood now.
The Koreans think everything must be beautiful, and they have also developed an amazing infrastructure. Even if there is a hint of a pot hole, they won’t just patch the pot hole, they will dig up the road and re-do the whole road. If there is a flowerbed beside the road that has perfectly good flowers, someone may still decide to plow it up and replace it with better flowers. Their roads and highways are extremely modern and extremely well maintained. They have an amazing subways system that is very cheap. It began just in the big cities, but it is extending beyond the big cities. Everyone doesn’t need a car, so they don’t have as big of a dependence on gasoline as many countries have. They are constantly updating and extending their subway. The first year I lived in Korea, I was about 45 minutes north of Seoul by car, and there was no subway there, only a train and a bus. However, now a days, they have a subway 45 minutes out of Seoul to that small town. The subway system is constantly expanding, and they plan on making it reach all over Korea eventually. The subways, buses, trains, and gasoline are much cheaper than in Japan. The roads are in better shape than American roads.
During the 2008 world financial crisis, S. Korea was not going to let it touch them. There were people working for their bosses for free during that time just to make sure the companies stayed open and they could have a job after it was all over. Koreans protect one another. When they travel overseas, they trust one another. A Korean traveler may stay with a Korean they meet overseas for free just because they are both Koreans. They have a true brotherhood among the Korean people. They trust one another, and they should because they have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. They also have extremely high morals. If anyone in public office or in the media in any way like K-pop stars or Korean drama stars do something wrong like sleep with someone they aren’t married to, get drunk, are found to have drugs on them, are known to have cheated someone, they are put out of public view and can no longer get jobs. Fifty percent of S. Korea claims Christianity, and about 30% claims Buddhism, and those two coupled with the Confucian philosophy for society serves them very well. They take care of one another. There is no welfare for people who can’t work. Their families are expected to take care of them, and they are in trouble legally if they don’t. There are not a lot of free handouts from the government to people who don’t work like America has.
They have made it so everyone in the country can afford health care insurance and a good education. There is government health insurance. Their hospitals are so cheap that even without insurance, they are cheaper than American hospitals with insurance. The government has put money into universities and made them so cheap the average man can attend there with money out of pocket. In America, the average man can’t go to the university without financial aid from the government or some other institution. When I was teaching at a Korean university, they had an exchange program with a university where I used to teach in America. They begged the American university to give them a break because they said the Koreans were poor. The dorm at the American university cost $10,000 a year, and that wasn’t counting tuition which was much more. The Korean university got scholarships for their students to come to America and only pay that $10,000 for the dorm, but get the classes for free. The Korean university was a private university in Korea, so didn’t get as much money as the public ones in Korea, but still, to stay in the dorm and take classes for a year was only about $10,000. It costs about $400 a semester to stay in the Korean university’s dorm. If American students went to the Korean university, they were expected to pay full price, and it was cheaper than going to school in America. The hitch with their universities is that unless you go on an exchange program, they have it set up so American students can’t get into their universities and study four years. There is no law against it, but they think their universities are far superior to American universities, and always find a way around letting Americans get degrees in Korea but lots of them find scholarships financed by the American government or some church or some other institution and come to American and get degrees. The level of education of the average Korean has become very high. There are so many reforms that need to be made in America in both medical insurance and education. Korea has the system figured out.
These are just some of the reasons I have seen that has helped with the economic growth in Korea. If other countries want to pull themselves up in the world, they need to take note and see if they can implement some of the things that Koreans have implemented. What country wouldn’t like an economic miracle in their country? Koreans made it happen.