[KS] Recent Findings of Happiness in Korea

Amy Huynh ahuynh at fas.harvard.edu
Fri Feb 27 13:28:41 EST 2004

Dear All,

I am currently a senior at Harvard College, studying Economics and East
Asian Studies and am working on the draft of my thesis-which is a
Comparative Study of Happiness Across South Korea, China, Japan, and Taiwan.
My recent findings have deviated from the expected results in prevailing
happiness research, and for such reason, I am appealing for explanations why
certain patterns for socio-demographic factors have been found in South
Korea as well as in the other countries.  As this is a Korean discussion
group, I ask specifically for your recommendations on books to reference as
well as your explanations and justifications why I have observed these

- In South Korea, the retired/pensioned seem to be less happy than the
employed, self-employed, at home, students, and even unemployed.  Usually,
it has been found that the retired/pensioned are happier, given their
increased leisure time and retirement benefits/pension systems.  I wonder if
you know of exactly how the retirement benefit system in Korea works,
whether the elder are regarded as "children," and thus find this less
distasteful.  In my data set, the retired/pensioned in China, Japan, and
Taiwan all seem to be happier than most other groups.  It seems easier to
attribtue this to the fact that in Japan and Taiwan, there are state pension
funds (but that is also true in Korea), and that in the other three
countries, elders are respected, and tend to live with their children
through co-residence.  Is this not true in Korea?

-The widowed in Korea seem to be happier than the Single category.  Those
living together tend to be overwhelming happier than all the other groups
(i.e. Single, Married, Divorced, Separated, Widowed).  It has been cited
that in collectivist socieites, it should be expected that those living
together are in fact less happy than all the other groups.  This phenomenon
of those living together being happier than the single and evne marired
seems to be true in China and Japan as well.  It seems that the Widowed also
tend to be happier than the single, and even married couples in China and
South Korea.

-The ideal number of children to have in Korea seems to be two.  Having no
children or one child doesn't seem to change happiness very much.  And
compared to having two children, having no children, or one, or even more
than two, seem to have a more negative influence on happiness.

-Income seems to still be an important indicator of happiness.  In recent
research, it has been noted that increased income above a certain point
(usually poverty line) does not appreciably increase happines, and yet in
Korea, it seems to remain important.  Why is that?  Do Koreans perceive
income in a different way?

-Education also seems to an important indicator even after income has been
controlled.  I wonder if education brings about additional happiness through
returns not captured in income.  That is, do Koreans perceive education as
important for the self, and other reasons rather than just for income?

Thank you for all your help.  Any responses to these findings will help me


Amy Huynh
451 Cabot Mail Center
60 Linnaean Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

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