Saturday, April 19, 2014

The sadness of one

I try not to immerse myself in the tragedies of the headlines of any given moment, probably because if I do, I am susceptible to overidentification.  I just get too sad, so I have to wall myself off a little.  But as the story of the Korean ferry unfolds -- to the extent that there is any unfolding, as opposed to a ship at the bottom of the sea with 270-odd people aboard it, almost certainly with us no more -- I can't help but to think back to the Economist's survey of Korea some months back.

Thing is, the birth rate in Korea is about 1.25.  Most families have only one kid, and they pour their heart and sole into that kid.  Everything depends upon the big college entrance exam, because you have to go to one of the top universities to get a job at one of the few chaebols, the big conglomerates -- Samsung, Hyundai, or LG.  Otherwise, the perception is, you have failed.  So the day of the big exam is a day of pressure unlike anything we know.  It's like our Ivy League focus cubed. So these families have lost not only a child, they've lost their only lifeline to the future.

In general, these birthrate issues are a big big problem.  Was just reading how Japan's had gone up froom 1.25 to 1.41 as more women entered the workplace.  Better, but still not great.  It is difficult to imagine how Japan and Korea will not look a whole lot different in 30-40 years.  Not just greyer, but different.  They need to open up to immigration, or the societies will die.  Western Europe has the same problem, but the societies there are marginally more open, have had to be, because of all the land borders down through time.

But we know that, this is getting boring, so I'll quit here.

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