Author | Editor: Aviles, W. (NSI, Inc.)
Three datasets on wealth and status distribution in South Korea were analyzed: 2015 World Bank quintile and decile estimates of income, and International Labor Organization (ILO) income by occupation data for years 2017 and 2012.
South Korea is on average a moderately risk acceptant nation, as measured by World Bank data showing income by individual, and ILO data showing income by occupation. According to the most recent ILO data, South Korea has increasingly become more risk acceptant.
Significance for Risk Taking and Stability
Today, South Korea is a stable, democratic nation. However, it has a checkered past of authoritarian rule and has experienced several military coups d’état. As a risk acceptant nation, generational divides and disparities in wealth are the most likely cleavages that can lead to political instability.
Implications for US Interests
President of Korea Moon Jae-in has promised several economic reforms and diplomatic engagements with North Korea. Given the impeachment of President Moon’s predecessor, President Park Geun-hye, the success of the current administration and stable governance in South Korea is crucial to US-led negotiations with the DPRK. Latent societal inequality that can increase during a financial crisis/natural disaster/conflict etc. could threaten President Moon’s democratic mandate and ability to govern and is subsequently of significant concern to the US.
Implications for China’s Interests
Moderate regional tensions across the Korean Peninsula are favorable for China as it maintains the status quo balance of power and influence. Social cleavages in South Korea that can contribute to a degree of weakness in South Korea is correspondingly also favorable. Any monumental socio-political events in South Korea that can exacerbate inequality will also likely lead to severe instability dyadically with the DPRK however, would not be favorable for Beijing.
Implications for Russia’s Interests
Russia similarly has interest in South Korean instability insofar as it can reverse US influence and military presence. Social cleavages and inequality than can cultivate a dimension of instability that would lead to anti-Western sentiment is advantageous to Russian interests. However, high degrees of South Korean risk-acceptance have the potential to several destabilize the Korean peninsula to a point that would embroil Russian interests Barring the potential for such a scenario, South Korean stability is more advantageous to Russian interests.