The Washington Post reported that the heroes of the Miracle of the Han River are living in poverty, as younger Koreans are spending more and more on private education and luxury products. It added that the country’s old-age poverty rate is the highest among the group of developed economies.
The problems of an aging population and the poverty of the elderly have long been mentioned in Korean society, but a report by the foreign press has some bitter implications, in that people around the world have begun to realize that Korea’s traditional value of filial duty is crumbling.
“Your country’s philosophy of filial duty is the most noble one in the entire human race, and you have to preserve it for good while spreading it to Western nations,” the late British historian Arnold J. Toynbee said to Korean politicians visiting London back in 1973. He added, “If the Earth was destroyed and people had to move to a new planet, the philosophy would be the very best cultural element they could have to go with.”
Filial piety has played an important role in the growth of the national economy, too. Korea, which had little natural or financial resources, could turn itself into a role model of economic development because of the strong tie between parents and their children. However, a series of social problems, ranging from heinous crimes to the spread of egotism, are emerging and contributing to the destruction of the philosophy nowadays. This being apparent to even foreigners implies that they could become more and more negative about the outlook of Korea’s future economic growth. Countermeasures are called for, including an increase in related budgets.