S. Korea has come a long way. That is very true. In just thirty years, it went from being the poorest nation in the world to one of the richest in the world. I have some information on how they did it, and there is a possibility that other countries could take notes and try the same. However, very few people would go for doing what S. Korea has done.
First of all, they decided as a nation they wanted to do better. Everyone went to work to make S. Korea’s economy better, every grown person in the whole country. They all began working extremely hard even if they got no personal reward. They began a philosophy that they don’t work to live, but live to work. They stopped going home in the evenings to rest, but just kept right on working. They never asked for overtime pay, but everyone was and still is putting in long, long hours. During the 2008 financial crisis, I was amazed because I knew people who would have been laid off because their boss couldn’t afford to keep them, but they opted to work without pay because they wanted their boss’ business to go. They just moved in with relatives, and relatives took care of them. Eventually, the crisis was over and the bosses were able to pay again.
S. Korea is a very united nation. They trust other S. Koreans. They treat one another well. They have one of the lowest crime rates in the world. There are a large percentage of Christians among them now, and Christians believe in self sacrifice, and the philosophy spills out to the others. Most of the population believes in good morals and self sacrifice.
There can be no immorality in the public eye, in government or in the music and movie industries. People are ousted for anything like that. A couple of years ago, a K-Pop artist was in Japan and got caught with marijuana, and he was fired, and his career was over. He has to start from scratch again. A few years ago, a president, President Kim (a woman), was impeached because she had some shady friends who did something questionable. I asked someone if the president was guilty, and they said, “If she has friends like that, she must be,” but as far as I know, they hadn’t actually proven anything about her except that she had gangster type friends. A few years before that, there was another ex president, President Moon. He had done something shady while he was in office, and he was completely ashamed by what he did, so he committed suicide. I witnessed a protest close to where I lived against corruption. A. Koreans are serious about the people who are in the public eye being who they should be. They average Korean is much more innocent than the average American, and they like it that way.
S. Korea is a Democratic nation. They all have a choice, and enjoy their Democracy, but they are also Confucius. The Confucianism is not a religion, but a philosophy about how society should be ordered. Who ever is older is in charge, even if they are only two minutes older. The younger ones humbly submit to the older ones. The older ones have more experience and understand more about life, and the younger ones admit that and bow their heads and their wills to them. I know men in their thirties and forties who are still taking instructions from their dads. They trust the older generation. They understand that wisdom comes with age. The younger generation is not out trying to make a name for themselves, but trying to work well within the society. The wellness of the society comes first to them. Rebellion is just never thought of. If someone steps out of line and abuses someone physically, they police are all over it. An old man tried to accost me on a small street close to my house, and the police arrested him, they drilled me with lots of questions and made sure I had a woman asking the questions as well as a translator. They were not going to let that old guy get away with anything! They put up signs around the neighborhood for the women to be careful and began trying to keep a closer eye on the small streets around my house. The police are sincere about doing a good job.
The average S. Korean is honest. I lost my cell phone twice. Once, someone turned it into the police station. The other time, I called my phone from someone else’s phone, and the person met me at the subway and gave my phone back. The average person does automatic bill pay through the bank, and they trust that everyone will do a good job. The government promotes the use of credit cards, and no one is cheating with the credit cards. You can also buy what the call T-Money cards. They look like credit cards, but you buy them at convenience stores and put money on them. That is how parents give their kids money for riding the busses and subways. The government promotes the plastic money, and it works well because no one is cheating.
One place they do cheat is with the insurance. If someone has a chance to have a health problem, they will just go to the hospital and stay as long as they can and let their insurance pay for it. If you are in a car wreck, they will even give fraudulent evident to try to make you responsible so your insurance company has to pay for it. However, there are many who refuse to do something like this and are extremely fair with the others. The insurance companies know they get scammed, and they just put up with it. S. Koreans are really good about just submitting to the others whether they think it is right or wrong. It is the character of the people. If there is any crime taking place, it is with the people who try scamming the insurance companies. I am sure the scamming insurance companies didn’t help them.
Besides all these kinds of things, the government also did its part to help the economy. Many, many companies began, and the government supported them. Several big companies like Samsung or big paper product companies had influxes of money from the government. The influx came with the agreement that they would hire more workers. These companies became huge! Everyone in the country would love to work for Samsung. It is now considered one of the best jobs someone could have. Samsung even has big luxury apartment buildings where only their employees stay. They have the best salaries and the best benefits, and everyone would love to get in at Samsung.
Something else the government has done is to subsidize universities. The government has worked hard at keeping the cost of going to school low. They have some huge ivy league universities in S. Korea, and they are extremely cheap to attend even without a scholarship. There are also lots of scholarships available. The S. Korean government keep an eye on the universities, and the ones they think are doing the best get grants from the government, and the others get harassed. There are more well educated people in S. Korea than I have met anywhere in the world, and I have lived in 8 countries and traveled to more.
The government has also set up a health insurance system that is amazing! Everyone who works and everyone in their family are available for the insurance. It has an extremely low cost, and takes care of a lot, even for doctor’s visits. The hospitals are modern and well run, and most of the doctors speak English. Many people go to S. Korea for medical tourism. The hospital bills in S. Korea are cheaper even without insurance than the hospital bills in America. They are doing something very right with the medical system.
They have cheap, efficient public transportation going everywhere and growing. Different companies own the busses, but they all cooperate and none of their routes overlap the other’s. I am not sure about the subways, but probably the city governments are in charge of them. They subways lines just keep growing. When I first got to Korea, there was a subway in Seoul, but up north where I was in Paju City, there was only a bus to Seoul or a train to Seoul. However, they wanted a subway. Now a days, they have a subway. The subway system is growing like wildfire. It needs to because the streets are often full of traffic jams, and on the holidays, there are even traffic jams in the country.
They moved most of the country out of their traditional homes and set up huge, modern apartment buildings. S. Korea buildings the tallest building in the world. People moved into them because they have all the modern conveniences like central heat, air conditioning, hot and cold running water, washing machines, etc. They bills stay low because if the people overuse, they are charged double. Many people may have an electric air conditioner, but they won’t use it. It is the electric company that charges double if you reach a certain amount of electricity in one month. The apartments are small, but the Koreans don’t mind. Many Koreans don’t even want to own a bed, so they don’t need the space. They like sleeping in the floor, and it is especially nice in the winter because of the ondol heating. The ondol heating is hot water running through the floors and heating the floors, and hot air rises. On a cold day, it is wonderful to lay down on one of their floors with ondol heating!
The apartments also don’t have to be very big because people hardly go home. Even if they aren’t at work, they are normally out running around somewhere. They keep the coffee shops busy. Everyone goes out to eat, often everyday, and it makes going out to eat cheaper. Even if they stay home, order out if very popular. If lots of people are spending money, it is good for the economy and good for all the small businesses, and S. Korea is full of small businesses.
S. Korea also has no government food stamps or welfare checks. If someone gets sick, their family is expected to take care of them. If someone gets old, their family is expected to take care of them, but they do have government retirement people pay into and get back with they are old. . There are no free give aways for people who don’t work in S. Korea. I had a student whose dad got sick and couldn’t work. Her mother had some problems too, so the girl dropped out of school, went to work, and supported her parents until she could see her way to come back. Koreans work.
As you can see, the unity of the S. Korean people is a lot of what helped them do so much better. They all had the commitment to their country to make it better. They believe in S. Korea and in other S. Koreans. None of this would have been possible without the unity that the people have. None of it would have been possible without people sacrificing for others. Christianity has helped them a lot because it is a religious of self sacrifice. Confucianism has helped them a lot because people will bow to the will of others and not revel. The S. Korean people work at a unit, and that makes a difference. I was really shocked in 2008 to find people working without a paycheck for the good of their bosses! If you can get people to pull together the way S. Korea has pulled together, their is hope their country can do better. However, very few populations care to do that kind of thing. S. Koreans know that Americans work to live instead of living to work like they do. They give their foreign teachers more time off than their Korean teachers, and the Korean teachers don’t complain. How many of your would work overtime everyday without being compensated? How many would work for a boss who can’t pay you? Who would put the needs of the country over their personal needs? They don’t have to do these things, but they do. They are a united force, and that has helped them more than anything. They consider their natural resources to be their people.