Culture, not ethnicity, is the determining factor of a society’s outcomes. Korea has a homogeneous culture. Policymakers in the US will often cite Scandinavian countries or East Asian countries to rationalize their opinions, but usually these statements have miniscule merit, as what you get in a homogeneous society is not what can be gotten in a free-for-all like the US.
Here are some notes from being in Korea for over a year now. In a homogeneous society, you get:
- Lower crime, and kids under the age of 10 riding the subway or bus by themselves, and walking home after leaving their tutoring academies at midnight.
- A social problem with people inflicting physical violence on police officers, ambulance workers, firefighters, and medics.
- Informal credit systems where neighborhood grocers will tell you to pay them for groceries later, with no mention of when or even of a deadline. This extends to modern restaurants when the POS system is down, and they tell you to come back later to pay them back.
- Less of a litigious society, with personal lawsuits over bodily injuries, medical malpractice, etc., not very common or pursued – mostly, these types of things are settled out of the courts or person-to-person over the phone. Correspondingly, a lower cost of social services like child daycares ($100/mo.) or medical care.
- A society/major city with a higher average level of service for most things. A city that is so prosperous, that sometimes it gives out bus and subway rides for free.
- The culinary custom of serving an entire table-full of side dishes for free, which can be refilled to your stomach’s content. This has been going on for decades, if not centuries, and abuse has not caused it to stop.
- An inherent-not-explicitly stated business oligarchic class that has implicit societal objectives such as high employment at the expense of productivity and margins and ROE, although none of the Korean conglomerates would ever admit to this.
- Rampant double-parking on the street, with cars put in neutral and their owners’ cell phone numbers either printed or otherwise left on the dashboard. If a car is blocking another driver, then the other driver is expected to push the car (which is in neutral) out of the way – and if it doesn’t work, then to call the owner, whether at 6 am or 6 pm.
- The laxest public transportation security measures and ticket checks in the world, in my opinion. For domestic flights, you can show up 10 minutes before the actual flight to check in and get waved through. On trains, you can book a ticket and waltz onto the train and pass zero security checks and zero ticket attendants. Your relatives can get on the train with you to say their goodbyes, until a message over the intercom helpfully announces that any well-wishers should deboard or risk being taken halfway across the country.
- Older men who often communicate in a series of grunts or gestures at restaurants.
- In playrooms (note: not schools), the moms come by with kids as young as 3 and just drop them off for a few hours. Just drop them off. If the kids need to go to the bathroom, one of the frontline staff, regardless of gender, takes them to the bathroom.
- Kids who come out to the public parks on the weekend, alone, to play. As it should be, probably.
But what you also get is:
- An invisible pressure to conform to social norms and mores, including that of physical beauty, and a huge plastic surgery and aesthetic care industry.
- Rampant copying and gauntlet-style jousting as the prevailing method of competition in every facet of life, from education, to restaurants, to business in general.
- Highest average spending on education in the OECD, with high average test scores on math and science to match, but limited innovation and creativity, a lot of which is directly related to the oligarchic business complex that stifles / crushes SME’s and mom and pop stores.
- An entertainment-industrial complex that churns out pop stars as if on an assembly line, with artists at the mercy and whim of their producers, who create, produce, prettify, write the songs, house, feed, and choreograph the dances for them.
- High rates of suicide as people who don’t feel they have succeeded along the narrow metrics of defined success, feel they have failed in life.
- Barriers to immigration that are causing the society to age, and die – with deaths outnumbering births, the population will soon plummet.
- Insane FOMO, as evidenced during the cryptocurrency boom and bust within a span of a few months last year (2017), that drives speculative bubbles. See 1997, 2007 as well for eerie rhyming.
- Binge drinking at a societal level, and despite repeated regulations telling employers not to force employees to go on forced outings where some people die from an excessive amount of alcohol consumption, the highest in the world on a per-capita basis. Resultant lack of productivity in the mornings after is socially accepted, as is workers showing up at 10am, red-faced and smelling like alcohol, and wasting the entire morning.
- Liver failure and stomach cancer common from the excess amount of drinking that is required for such social situations, in combination with the spicy paste that pervades everything.