The Korea Herald


South Korea’s life satisfaction among lowest in OECD

Only Turkey, Colombia had lower satisfaction scores than Korea

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : Feb. 20, 2023 - 15:17

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A man walks past a small lodging, known as “jjokbang,” in Seoul’s Jongno district on Feb. 1. (Yonhap) A man walks past a small lodging, known as “jjokbang,” in Seoul’s Jongno district on Feb. 1. (Yonhap)

South Korea ranked near the bottom on reported levels of life satisfaction among member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, according to a report released this month.

Statistics Korea's report Quality of Life Indicators in 2022 showed that South Korea ranked 36th among 38 OECD countries in terms of life satisfaction, based on data collected from 2019 to 2021. The country had a score of 5.9 out of 10, substantially lower than the OECD average of 6.7.

This score is also lower than that of neighboring country Japan's 6.0.

Only two countries -- Turkey (4.7) and Colombia (5.8) -- had lower life satisfaction scores than Korea.

When only looking at the score for 2021, it increased slightly from the previous year from 6.0 to 6.3. However, the satisfaction score of the low-income group with a monthly income of less than 1 million won ($770) in 2021 was only 5.5.

The satisfaction score of the group with a monthly income between 1 million won-2 million won was 6.0.

The report showed that suicide rates rose in Korea over the same period.

According to the report, as of 2021, Korea's suicide mortality rate, or the number of suicides per 100,000 people, increased by 0.3 on-year, reaching 26.0.

When looking into data on people aged over 70, the number of suicides per 100,000 people was 41.8. The number sharply rose to 61.3 when only looking at data on people aged over 80.

The report also showed that due to people staying at home longer during the pandemic, child abuse cases sharply increased.

As of 2021, the rate of child abuse cases among children and adolescents aged 0-17 was recorded at an all-time high of 502.2 per 100,000 children. This is a significant increase from the previous year's figure of 401.6.

Many of the figures in the report showed that the country still has not recovered fully from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The personal trust index, which measures the subjective interpersonal trust among people, increased slightly to 59.3 percent in 2021, but this figure is still lower than the pre-pandemic level of 66.2 percent in 2019.

The report explained that, mainly due to restrictions on outdoor activities, people's interpersonal trust decreased during the pandemic.

The average number of days that people traveled in 2021 was 6.58 days. This is an improvement from 5.81 days in 2020, but it still is lower than 10.01 days in 2019.

Employment rates have recently shown significant improvement, the report said.

Last year, the employment rate was 62.1 percent, which is the highest in 22 years since 2000. The employment rate of college graduates marked 67.7 percent.

The nation's gross national income per capita has slightly improved as well.

In 2021, GNI per capita increased by 1.79 million won on-year to 39.49 million won. Nonetheless, the household debt ratio increased by 8.7 percentage points from 2020 to 206.5 percent in 2021.

The household debt ratio of Korean households has been increasing over the past 13 years, from 138.5 percent in 2008.

Statistics Korea's report on Koreans' quality of life looks into a total of 71 different indicators, consisting of 42 objective and 29 subjective indicators. Sixty-two indicators were updated in the recently published 2022 report.

Among the updated indicators, 47 showed improvement from the previous year, while 14 showed deterioration and one remained the same.