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Social Trust and Economic Development

The Case of South Korea

O. Yul Kwon

In just one generation, South Korea has transformed from a recipient of foreign aid to a member of the G20. In this informative book, South Korea is used as a case by which to explore and illustrate specific issues arising from the complex relationships between the nation’s economic development and society.
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Chapter 6: Interpersonal trust and its socioeconomic effects in Korea

O. Yul Kwon


Chapter 6 investigates the causes, effects, and remedial measures of low interpersonal trust in Korea. Interpersonal trust in Korea has declined since the early 1980s, as indicated not only by the World Values Survey, but also by numerous domestic social indicators such as litigations, forgery, and counterfeiting. Low interpersonal trust adversely affects the economy and society through numerous interrelated channels. By raising transaction costs, it can be a drag on economic development. It also affects people’s observances of the rule of law, social conflict, and well-being. Numerous causes of low interpersonal trust are identified, including low morality and civility arising from fierce competition in schools, the hierarchical collectivism society, ideological conflicts, income inequality, inadequate law abidance, and high corruption. One core cause underlying all other causes of low interpersonal trust is the fiercely competitive educational culture in Korea. Hence, a fundamental solution should be sought by undertaking a long-run national campaign for character education in schools and society.

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