These days, the middle class of Korean society is becoming thinner and thinner. The size of the middle class began to decrease in the early 1990s, while the Asian financial crisis in 1997 widened the gap between the haves and have-nots and further undermined the middle class base in Korea.
According to the Ministry of Strategy and Finance and Statistics Korea, the middle class accounted for 66.7% in Korea, dropping 3.4% from 70.1% in 2003. This decline is attributed to population aging and rapid technological advancements in Korea. In particular, new technologies usually require less human labor, and this has resulted in a decrease in the number of middle class jobs, and resulted in mode people dropping to the lower class.
Meanwhile, the number of one-person households has increased to 20.2% from 15.6% in 2000. The only group which marked a fall in average income last year was one-person households according to data from the Korean government. The government calculated these figures by investigating household disposable income. The government did not include people working in the agricultural and fisheries industries and single-individual households.
A middle class family is defined as one whose income is between 50% and 150% of the median income. That is to say, a poor-class family makes less than 50% of the median income while the income of a rich or upper class household is more than 1.5 times larger than the median income. The proportion of households in the middle class dropped 3.4%p, while the proportion of those in the upper class went up by 1.9%p.