South Korean Children Rank Last in Happiness Survey


South Korean children and adolescents are the least happy among developed countries, according to a recent survey conducted by South Korea’s Ministry of Health and Welfare.

Among 27 countries listed in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) grouping — plus Romania, Latvia and Lithuania — South Korea scored the lowest in terms of children’s “life satisfaction” with a total of 60.3 out of 100 points. Meanwhile Netherlands scored the highest with 94.2 points, followed by Iceland and Finland.

“The most relevant factor to the children’s life satisfaction is academic stress, followed by school violence, Internet addiction, negligence and cyber violence,” the Korean health ministry told Reuters. The survey, which was conducted on more than 4,000 Korean households nationwide with children under 18, comes as around 600,0000 high school seniors prepare for the annual college entrance exam.


Graphic courtesy of the Korea Herald

The South Korean education system is notorious for its competitiveness, and the national college exam is considered a “make-or-break” moment for young Korean teens, as high scores can secure a path to the most prestigious schools and corporations. Parents spend thousands of dollars on private education and tutoring every year in order for their children to gain an advantage in the entry exam. Cheating is also a rampant issue as cram schools, or hagwons, have previously been accused of acquiring test questions in advance and sharing them with their students.

According to National Statistics Korea, more than half of children aged between 15 and 19 polled admitted to having suicidal thoughts due to academic performance and college entrance exams.

“Students endure a substantial psychological burden from competition and long hours of work,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said Tuesday at an education forum in Seoul. Kim, who emigrated to the U.S. at age five, added that South Korea should look to cutting down private tutoring as a way to reduce academic pressure on students.

South Korea also ranked last in the survey’s child deprivation index, which includes the lack of leisure time for hobbies and club activities.

Featured photo courtesy of Samuel Orchard/Wikicommons