The Korea Herald


[Book Review] Econ. professor urges to assess happiness when measuring prosperity

'Are people’s quality of life and happiness proportional to economic growth?'

By Lee Seung-ku

Published : Sept. 16, 2022 - 15:51

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Front and back cover of professor Lee Nae-chan's book, Front and back cover of professor Lee Nae-chan's book, "Rich Economy, Poor Happiness" (Edabooks)

In his book “Rich Economy, Poor Happiness," Lee Nae-chan, a professor of economics at Hansung University, explores the dark sides of South Korea’s prosperous economic development and sheds light on how to ultimately achieve happiness in a country that is no longer on a fast economic growth track.

“Korea has grown remarkably in size, so far from the debris of the Korean War, but happiness and quality of life are ranked at the bottom among OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) member countries, and inequality is also on the rise,” Lee writes.

Despite Korea's rapid economic growth, the overall quality of life Koreans experience is not catching up, according to Lee.

Lee argues that the current gross domestic product is insufficient in assessing Korea's prosperity and introduces gross national happiness as an alternative. He presents Bhutan as a country that already uses GNH, highlighting that Bhutan’s society has become more inclusive.

Professor Lee Nae-chan, author of Professor Lee Nae-chan, author of "Rich Economy, Poor Happiness" (Edabooks)

Lee suggests Korea create a new measurement of prosperity, gross national happiness and product, to accurately measure economic growth while also fostering the pursuit of happiness.

“Happiness is an important value human beings should pursue regardless of the times. Many advanced countries are aiming for welfare, with the policy goal of improving the quality of life of their people by satisfying their desire to pursue happiness,” Lee writes.

“The book investigates our reality that has been hidden by economic growth,” Lee explained.

It also “investigates the essence of ‘happiness’ and ‘quality of life’ that economics does not contain and finds the conditions for a happy country that have been forgotten in economic prosperity,” he added.

The book was published on Sept. 7 and is available for purchase at local bookstores.