While the Pyongyang Kim’s have enjoyed their fleeting fame as spoilers, the real and quiet battle for South Korea’s future has been taking place here in South Korea. There are several issues that have grown slowly out of aggravated and unsolved problems but, the largest problem that affects the most citizens in South Korea is Household debt – this long-standing problem has kept growing and growing despite the claims of so many who felt that this is a not a big problem. Well, now most people have come to share the view that it really is bad. This proverbial hole in the dike could be manageable, if it were not for other conditions that exist today, per a McKinsey & Company article on the problems that face the South Korean economy and society:

. . . More than half of middle-income households spend more each month than they earn(cite). The signs of social distress are multiplying. South Korea’s divorce rate has doubled, fertility rates have fallen to the fourth lowest among advanced economies, and the suicide rate is the highest in the OECD(cite). (McKinsey article)

PGH’s idea of starting a “new era of people’s happiness and hope” or her “happiness fund” is only useful if it focuses upon increasing middle class solvency rather than handing out new loans, which would ignore the underlying problems that haunt the middle class in South Korea as they struggle under ever increasing debt. Wonsik Choi and Richard Dobbs, in the McKinsey article, claim that nothing less than a “second miracle on the Han River” is needed for South Korea to overcome the economic problems that have have been allowed to grow into big problems. IMHO, If ever there was a time for South Koreans of all ideologies to unite in a common goal, now is the time. PGH is probably the right person to lead this task, unlike her predecessor who has left Korea with a miracle on four rivers – miraculous only because this prodigious example of mismanagement, corruption and waste was allowed to happen and has mostly gone unpunished.

Read the McKinsey article, in full and also the excellent article in the JoongAng Ilbo for a very succinct view of the economic issues that Korea faces today.