[KS] How unequal is South Korea, really?

Norman Thorpe cor1882 at yahoo.com
Wed Aug 23 20:48:34 EDT 2006

A Korea Times article on Aug. 1 also may reflect a
declining sense of economic equality and job
stability. The report was about a survey conducted by
the Seoul Economic Daily July 20-22. Much of the
article was about views on the Korea-US FTA
negotiations, but it also contained these paragraphs:

"The survey also showed that the number of those who
think they belong to the middle class is decreasing.
Around 36 percent said they were middle-class citizens
in September 2005, but that figure dwindled to 25.5
percent in July 2006. 

"The respondents also said that to be considered rich,
they should have more than 1.17 billion won ($1.1
million) in financial assets, excluding real estate.
(The 1.17 billion won figure may be an average of the
responses -- NT)

"Around 62 percent of those interviewed consider
investment in real estate the best way for increasing

"Most of the respondents said the proper age for
retirement is 61.2, with around 61 percent of them
believing they will be able to retire from the
companies they are currently working for. 
(Again, 61.2 may be the average of what the
respondents said was the proper age for retirement --

"Nearly 94 percent of the respondents said it is
necessary to introduce a ``salary peak'' system that
reduces salaries after a certain age in return for a
guarantee that they can continue to work until their


If you have trouble with the link, just go to
www.koreatimes.co.kr and use the search button to
search for "middle class" .  

Norman Thorpe
Whitworth College

--- Brother Anthony <ansonjae at sogang.ac.kr> wrote:

> The land-ownership statistics at the end of the text
> quoted by Paul Shepherd are hair-raising. Yesterday
> my
> favorite Korean journalist was telling me that many
> people believe that the explosion in apartment-based
> living promoted during the later 1980s, and the
> demolition of almost all the housing that people on
> minimal
> incomes could afford (rented rooms with a shared
> toilet and tap), was a deliberate strategy to oblige
> most
> urban-dwellers (not only in Seoul) to accept such
> huge mortgage and loan burdens that they would only
> be
> able to survive by working very hard and being
> careful not to compromise their income by strikes or
> union
> militancy that might threaten social stability (and
> economic inequality). Everyone dreams of owning land
> because that is seen as the only reliable form of
> wealth, and the 54% who do not are very aware that
> certain people, often purely by chance and
> inheritance, own immense tracts.
> Related to this issue is the following quotation
> from the Korea Times of August 20:
> According to a report from the state-run Korea
> Development Institute (KDI), the number of employees
> at the
> top 30 conglomerates, state-owned firms and
> financial firms declined to 13 million in 2004 from
> 15.7
> million in 1997, affected by restructuring. Over the
> same period, the total number of employees in South
> Korea increased by 13.4 million.
> This means decent jobs offering high incomes and
> better opportunities for career development have
> fallen,
> while the number of employees at small and mid-sized
> companies has risen for the past decade, the report
> said.
> ``South Korea has seen its total number of jobs
> increase since the Asian financial crisis thanks to
> economic development, but there was little growth in
> terms of income,¡¯¡¯ the KDI said. ``This is due to
> a
> fall in the number of jobs at companies offering
> high incomes. The income disparity may widen further
> unless the government takes proper
> counter-measures.¡¯¡¯
> Add to this the disappearance of jobs for unskilled
> laborers in the industrial sector and the main
> question
> is how the poor survive at all. Students graduating
> from universities have a very hard time getting
> jobs,
> and statistics suggest that a large proportion fail.
> This is mitigated by the dramatic drop in numbers
> caused by the drop in the birthrate 25 years ago.
> Empty four-year-colleges and universities in the
> provinces are busily laying off professors who have
> no one to teach.
> No wonder so many people tried to get lucky
> gambling, until the latest scandal broke.
> Br Anthony
> Sogang University, Seoul, Korea
> http://hompi.sogang.ac.kr/anthony/

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