South Korea fact(s) of the day

The household savings rate in South Korea
will have plummeted from a world-beating 25.2 percent in 1988 to a
projected world low of 3.2 percent in 2010, according to the OECD.

Here is much more.  In fact:

South Koreans work more, sleep less and kill themselves at a higher
rate than citizens of any other developed country, according to the
OECD. They rank first in time spent online and second to last in
spending on recreation, and the per capita birthrate scrapes the bottom
of world rankings. By 2050, South Korea will be the most aged society
in the world, narrowly edging out Japan, according to the OECD.

And here's one problem with aggregate savings rates:

…South Korea ranks first in per capita spending on
private education, which includes home tutors, cram sessions and
English-language courses at home and abroad.

An obsessive pursuit of educational achievement, it seems, is one of
the driving forces behind the low savings rate. About 80 percent of all
students from elementary age to high school attend after-school cram
courses. About 6 percent of the country's gross domestic product is
spent on education, more than double the percentage of spending in the
United States, Japan or Britain.

Comments

This phenomenon is much more pervasive in the peninsula than anybody would think.

This “obsessive pursuit of academic achievement† is originally from each individual citizen’s obsessive yearning toward to become the prosperous and powerful being.

Not as much as US yet, but the income gap between the rich and poor in Korea is becoming larger and larger and it is enough nowadays to feel that gap is not capable of narrowing down anymore.

Many big conglomerates like Samsung or Hyundai are still family-owned, and their 5-year-old sons already possess million dollar worth of the company stocks. Moreover, marriage between the children of conglomerates is considered to be natural, like the ancient times, when princess had to marry a prince or equivalent level of barons.

Therefore, many think that the only exit strategy from being a mid-income or low-income citizen to top-tier tax payers is just to have one of the prestigious academic degrees and label them as intellectuals, by hiring private tutors and cram sessions.

I have long wondered what the results of the severe study burden that Japanese and South Korean students assume are. Do these 'cram classes' increase knowledge or intelligence in a beneficial or useful way? I suspect, although I wish that I could say that I knew, that something similar happens in China or soon will emerge there. I thus further wonder if there is a cultural or historical reason that these systems emerge in Asia or if it is just coïncidence.

There is a huge cultural and historical reason for this.

First traditional East Asian societies (China, Korea, Japan Vietnam) were Absolutist autocracies run by an examination run civil service, which was the only source of social prestige and mobility for anyone outside of the Royal family. Then when they modernized all of them chose a Prussian civil service and German University model to emulate.

If you want to read a short book on this the two I'd recommend are the delightful (and short) "Examination Hell" by Miyazaki, one of the the best monographs on China ever written, and for more on the social effects I'd recommend John Chaffee's "Thorny Gates of Learning"

There are other books, the finest on the subject is "A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China" by Benjamin Elman, which is fascinating but took me longer to read than Les Miserables.

Tino's comment would have been interesting enough without his insulting tone. Why not just say 'myth'? Why the need to flame and insult in these posts? Ignorant liberal myth/ignorant conservative/ignorant libertarian, bla bla bla. Why say such things? Marginal Revolution is a great site for ideas. What personal needs is Tino trying to meet by writing like that, in what was otherwise an informative post? It's such a downer to read stuff like that.

Many South koreans believe that sleeping with a fan on is fatal. Reasons given include: it creates a vortex which sucks all the air out of the room, Koreans have an elemental weakness to wind, the fan chops the oxygen molecules into CO2, or the fan will suck the air out of a person's mouth and nose, suffocating them in their sleep.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_death

"Fan death is a South Korean urban legend which states that an electric fan, if left running overnight in a closed room, can cause the death of those inside (by suffocation, poisoning, or hypothermia). Fans manufactured and sold in Korea are equipped with a timer switch that turns them off after a set number of minutes, which users are frequently urged to set when going to sleep with a fan on.[1]"

"Do these 'cram classes' increase knowledge or intelligence in a beneficial or useful way?"

One of my friends is in South Korea teaching English to students in one of these schools right now. From the way he describes it, the classes seem more similiar to test prep than anything else, but maybe I've misunderstood him. I do remember him specifically stating that he only saw upper middle class students, whose parents rivaled American parents for competitiveness as far as schooling goes.

I had some friends from Korea who came here to get their children out of that rat race for a while. They said that in Korea the children would leave for school at 8am and after school go to tutoring and not return until 10pm.

KK slider...what does your comment have to do with anything? It isn't relevant with what is being discussed. You probably hate Koreans, judging by the comments you made where you are highlighting a negative aspect of Korea. Please immediately delete your irrelevant comment...troll...

Now that Steve Sailor joined, no need for me to point out the likely non-causality of the association between spending on education and educational attainment.
I was interested in Tino's sarcastic remark "Since we have learnt from the Health Care debate that the conceivable differences between nations are dissimilar policies[...]", and looked up some numbers. The difference in life expectancy between the US and Netherlands is often referred to as an example of how superior semi-socialized health care increases life expectancy. At birth, someone living in the Netherlands can expect to live 2.35 years longer than someone born in the US, but at age 65, the difference is reversed, and someone living in the US can expect to live 0.4 years longer than someone living in the Netherlands. This difference can be explained by assuming that semi-socialized health care is better for young and worse for old people, or, at least as likely, different policies are not the main cause of the difference

Sources: CDC national vital statistics 2004, www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr56/nvsr56_09.pdf and RIVM 2007 levensverwachting, www.rivm.nl/vtv/object_document/o2309n18838.html (in Dutch)

Oh if Brias was asking about the absolute per capita spending figures I just multiplied spending share by PPP adjusted per capita gdp 2005.

(and yes I was being sarcastic, of course using per capita spending figures is not appropriate for either education or health, due to Baumol disease the relevant comparison is probably somewhere in between GDP share and absolute spending)

First traditional East Asian societies (China, Korea, Japan Vietnam) were Absolutist autocracies run by an examination run civil service, which was the only source of social prestige and mobility for anyone outside of the Royal family.

Not really true of Japan, which laboured under a series of military dictatorships from -- if I recall my history right -- around the end of the Heian era (around 1100) right up until the Meiji Isshin in the mid 19th century. I suppose there was probably a civil service and all that of some sort, but I don't think the examination system was a major part of their way of life. It doesn't impact their literature and art in a major way that I can tell until the modern period, much like Western countries.

In China, on the other hand, sitting for standardised examinations pops up all over their literary history for centuries back. It pops up in the artists' biographies of course -- they're typically people who flunked the exams, or passed the preliminary exam and choked on the follow-up -- but it also shows up in the works themselves. My favourite example is the contrast between Shakespeare and "The Peony Pavilion." They're roughly contemporary, in time, but they come from dramatically different cultural backgrounds. In Shakespeare, it's all swords and courtiers. In "The Peony Pavilion," (a melodramatic love story with ghosts and stuff) the happy ending is that the main character gets a First in the Civil Service Examination.

Another fun example (of parallels between our modern culture and Imperial China, not exams) is Du Fu, who lived in the 8th century AD (roughly contemporary with Charlemagne's father). One of his poems is about how he hates being stuck in his office in the heat. He writes: "I am about to scream madly in the office / Especially when they bring more papers to pile high on my desk." He might as well my contemporary.

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Many South koreans believe that sleeping with a fan on is fatal. Reasons given include: it creates a vortex which sucks all the air out of the room, Koreans have an elemental weakness to wind, the fan chops the oxygen molecules into CO2, or the fan will suck the air out of a person's mouth and nose, suffocating them in their sleep.

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