What “Round 6” reveals about today’s social situation in South Korea

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Union performance in Seoul, with participants wearing masks inspired by the series “Round 6”| Photo: EFE/EPA/Jean Hein-Kuen

Netflix’s biggest ratings hit in recent days, the series “Round 6” follows an inspiring crew of indebted people who take risks in a violent game of survival in South Korea, whose millionaire prizes hope to change their lives. represents.

Clearly as a generous dose of exaggeration, the series has prompted many to look at the world’s tenth economy (according to the International Monetary Fund) to see whether the characters’ despair reflects the social reality of the country today.

After all, “Parasite” (2019), the first English-produced film to win an Oscar for Best Picture, portrays an already bleak South Korea where social inequalities can take extremes.

Data from CEIC Data, a company specializing in economic statistics, show that debt is indeed an issue that worries South Koreans. At the end of last year, household debt represented 106.6% of the country’s nominal gross domestic product (GDP) – ten years earlier, the index was less than 80%.

The level of family indebtedness in South Korea is among the highest in Asia and one of the highest in the world: for comparison purposes, this level was 65.2% of GDP in Japan and 69.5% in the United States (US data is March 2021 from), according to CEIC data.

The Financial Times reported in August that the proliferation of digital lenders and fintechs in South Korea, including high-risk borrowers who often do not have access to bank financing, has been significantly affected by the proliferation of digital lenders and fintechs in South Korea. A trend encouraged by the country’s government.

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However, as home lending accelerated, Seoul responded by tightening lending rules: In July, private lenders could charge their customers the maximum statutory interest rate cut from 24% to 20%.

The OECD has the highest rate of older people in poverty in the country

South Korea has the highest elderly poverty rate among the member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), according to the latest comparative data.

In 2018, the South Korean index stood at 43.4%, followed by Latvia (39%), Estonia (37.6%) and Mexico (26.6%). With the aging of the population and declining fertility rates (0.9 births per woman in 2019 according to the World Bank, half of the average for East Asia and the Pacific), government spending on social security is likely to increase significantly. in the coming decades.

In an article published in September on the academic website The Conversation, Sarah Son, a professor of Korean studies at the University of Sheffield in England, pointed out that, even after decades of economic growth that has transformed South Korea into a global power, social Inequality follows a challenge, the subject of “parasites”, and one that has increased in recent years: the wealth of the richest 20% of South Korea’s population is 166 times greater than that of the poorest 20%, a disparity. Which has halved since 2017.

Son pointed out that the Gini index, which measures the distribution of national wealth, ranks South Korea above the UK and the US, but warned that rising youth unemployment, rising property prices and the pandemic caused a “slight shortage”. reversed. in the inequality experienced in recent years”.

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“It is certainly not unique to South Korea. The characters in ‘Round 6’, their problems and their humanity resonate in the experiences of societies around the world. Economies similar to South Korea are facing many of the same challenges. Which are increasing due to the ongoing pandemic,” the son said.

“The final episode hints at the possibility of a second season for the show, but even if it doesn’t continue, ‘Round 6’ makes it clear that the larger story it represents is not over.”

About the author: Will Smith

Will covers public and private tech markets from New York. He was previously a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University, and prior to that was a reporter at the Los Angeles Business Journal. He has received a Journalist of the Year award from the L.A. Press Club and an investigative reporting award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

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