Reporter Column: 1988 VS 2015: Have We Actually Become Better Off?
Reporter Column: 1988 VS 2015: Have We Actually Become Better Off?
  • Reporter Gwak Jun-ho
  • 승인 2016.09.28 22:28
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A Korean drama ‘Reply 1988’ which had been broadcasted on television in 2015 is recollected as one of the most popular Korean dramas in the history, recording a viewing rate of 19.5 %. One very reason for its popularity was the fact that it drew a nostalgic mood among viewers to let them miss the good old past. Then, why were the viewers inclined to miss the 1980s, the symbolic period of poverty?
It is true that our life has become better off in terms of materials. Most prominently, from 1988 to 2015, the GDP of Korea increased from USD 4,692 to 27,7663, almost by seven times. The average monthly tuition of a new recruit who graduated university has increased from 332,570 KRW to 2,909,000 KRW. Engel’s Coefficient which is the ratio of expenditure for food out of total income has decreased from 42 % to 26.5 %. Surely, we no longer have to concern ourselves with daily food, clothes, etc. in the time we are living in, as we did in 1988. However, the problems are inevitable as we look through bigger picture.
In 1988, the average monthly rent and deposit were respectively 42,000 KRW and 3,390,000 KRW. Assume that you found an employment at the age of 27 including 36 moths of military service, and that you make 10 % of deposit. Then, by the age 30, you have your own rent house. What about now? Due to high competition rate, young people find jobs at the age of 28 to 29 after 24 months of military service. However, now that the average monthly rent and deposit are 560,000 KRW and 1,300,000,000 KRW, it takes more than 10 years for them to have their own rent houses.
Also, back in 1988, the average household debt and the yearly saving were 1,658,000  KRW and 4,248,000 KRW, meaning that it takes about 6 months for a new recruit to pay the debt fully. By comparison, the average household debt and the yearly saving were 61,810,000 KRW and 64,700,000 KRW in 2015, meaning that it requires for a new recruit to work two years just for fully paying his debt. When one’s pure debt is greater than his total income, banks decide that his debt retirement is below standard and reject to give him any loan. May sound extreme, but this statistic is claiming that about half of Korean citizens’ debt retirement is in danger.
The problem is that happiness is not determined by the abundance of food and clothes. As the society performs mass production, food and clothes have become too abundant to concern us. What actually concern us, are the debts that never seem to diminish, and the cost of housing where we can safely stay. In the lack of those, in the process, we lose our motives for the future, and dreams. Surely the life has become better off compared to 1988, but whether it has ‘actually become better off’ is a question mark.