TV tip: A torn paradise: 3sat documentary about South Korea

TV tip
A torn paradise: 3sat documentary about South Korea

Lauren and Hakyung visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. photo

© Maria-Christina Degen/ZDF/SRF/dpa

A country of the future that is strongly attached to the roots of the past. A documentary explores one of the most fascinating countries in Asia.

South Korea holds a great fascination for many people in the Western world. Electronics companies like LG and Samsung have conquered the markets. K-pop music, the Oscar-winning film “Parasite” and series like “Squid Game” are international successes.

The documentary “South Korea – The Future is Now” by Maria-Christina Degen takes the TV audience on Wednesday (December 6th) at 9:05 p.m. into a nation full of contradictions. A country whose performance ranks as the 13th largest economy. And at the same time a country that is at the absolute bottom internationally when it comes to birth rates.

The Seoul metropolitan area, where around half of all 52 million South Koreans live, is now a popular destination for young professionals from all over the world. Lauren Guardia also turned her back on her home country, Switzerland, a few years ago and turned her dream into reality: The 35-year-old works at NCsoft, one of the three largest computer game companies.

“Today it is more accepted for people to do creative jobs,” says Lauren Guardia, who writes game texts for her employer, looking back. “For example, everyone used to want to become a doctor or lawyer. But today a lot of people study art or other creative things. You need that in the game company. Otherwise there is no game.”

Guardia’s colleague Suzy recently had a child, but will probably forego having more children for various reasons: “I always had the dream of a family,” remembers the author. “I actually wanted a lot of children. But in Korea you have to be rich to have a lot of children. All the education costs so much. When you work somewhere else, you’re usually not that flexible with your working hours. It’s really hard having one child to raise.”

Well-educated women are increasingly competing with men for the most attractive jobs. Sometimes men feel pushed out and disadvantaged because compulsory military service is imposed on them. But women in particular have a difficult time in everyday working life. South Korea has the largest gender pay gap among developed countries. Women earn over 30 percent less.

At the same time, the statutory weekly working time of 52 hours is often exceeded. Korea is characterized by the centuries-old tradition of Confucianism, which promotes wealth and education as high values, but at the same time underpins male dominance.

The dynamic capital is nevertheless attracting more and more foreigners with career ambitions. Because creative industries are booming in this part of Asia. For some, South Korea is an opportunity, for others it is crumbling under the pressure. South Korea has the highest suicide rate among industrialized countries. “A country in which children are unhappy is destined for an unhappy future,” says Nury Kim, one of the country’s harshest critics. The German scholar believes that turbo-capitalism and competition are driving society into hopelessness. The consequence is trends like the feminist “4 No’s”: no dating, no sex, no marriage, no children.


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