South Korea

Credit Suisse Progress Barometer 2019

Credit Suisse

The Credit Suisse Progress Barometer measures the desire for progress in society, politics and economy around the globe.

For this year’s edition, 16,000 citizens in 16 different countries on six continents (all except Antarctica) were interviewed and asked to share their views.

The questionnaire for the Progress Barometer was developed and launched in Switzerland in 2018 and taken to a global level in 2019. gfs.bern worked with local experts to ensure that the concept and questionnaire were adapted to reflect the context and characteristics of each country individually.

At the heart of the concept are 30 statements referring to 10 aspects of progress in society, politics and the economy in each case. For each of these aspects respondents were asked to indicate whether – in their opinion – the wheels of progress should move much faster (indicating desire for progress) or whether they should stop and be reversed (indicating aversion to progress).

This index allows opinions on progress within a country to be compared by looking at the areas of politics, society and the economy separately. Moreover, it also provides the opportunity to compare the 16 countries included in the study, thus helping us understand the readiness for progress around the world.




The process of adapting the questionnaire to each country brought to light how subjective progress as a notion is and how dependent it is on personal opinion and cultural background. Progress in one particular area can be viewed very favourably in one country, whereas in another country it might be seen as quite problematic. Progress is also not always seen as positive. The political zeitgeist, for example, suggests an increase in political polarization for the future – a development that many citizens would definitely prefer to reverse.

In addition to collecting information on where the citizens want their country to go in the future, the Progress Barometer also looks at the past and how citizens evaluate the changes their country has seen in the last ten years.

This cockpit is a portrait of how progress is seen in South Korea in 2019. Readiness for progress is discussed for the areas of politics, society and the economy – as well for the country overall. The 30 items used to calculate the progress indices are displayed in a progress map showing readiness for progress on the x-axsis and the unanimity with which this progress is demanded on the y-axsis.

For methodological information, please consult the info box at the end of the cockpit.


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South Korea has considerable willingness to embrace progress, ranking fifth of all 16 countries surveyed. The desire for progress is strongest in the field of economics whereas there is less enthusiasm for progress when it comes to current political developments.

Progress map South Korea

Apart from the global mega trend of e-mobility, questions of societal progress are important to South Korean voters. Gender equality is particularly stressed, and the issue of equality goes hand in hand with a strong need for action when it comes to the expansion of public childcare. But social progress seems to be limited to the classic nuclear family. When it comes to rights for homosexuals or the role of migrants, South Koreans see no specific need for progress.

When it comes to economic factors, progress is emphasized especially with regard to continuing vocational education and training and free trade. As an export-oriented country with China as the major import and export partner, free trade is of structural importance. The influx of foreign experts is also seen as a measure of progress, another result that can be seen in the context of an export-oriented economy. The automotive industry is a fundamental aspect of this country’s exports, and e-mobility also has many supporters in South Korea.

The current development of South Korea’s political culture towards polarization is viewed critically by South Korean voters. What is desired here is a turnaround in this dynamic. Compared with other countries, this is a relatively widespread phenomenon.

As one of the tigerstates South Koreas economic groth has led the country to wealth and a comparatively high living standard. The wish for more professionalization of voluntary work and support for an increase in development aid  are symptomatic for a country that has overcome the staus of a recipient country and has become oa donor country. An issue that remains problematic is poverty among seniors in the country. Therefore it is no surprise that after increase of develpoment aid and a desire for more underground transportation the increase in pension deductions are the third political element where South Koreans would like to see more progress.

Desire for progress in South Korea

In comparison, South Korea stands out with its high degree of willingness to make progress. It can be said that there is an above-average desire to see things moving forward at all levels. Especially when it comes to economic issues, South Koreans are willing to embrace more progress as they have benefited from it in past decades.

But there is also a strong will to advance when it comes to societal issues. In the political sphere there is slightly less enthusiasm for progress, but the overall desire for political progress can still be considered strong.

South Korea's self- assessment of progress

If asked, how South Koreans themselves would rate progress in their country 52% are of the opinion that their country is currently very progressive or somewhat progressive in terms of social matters. 49% think the same of economic progress and 38% think political progress has been made.

Future prospects

A majority of South Koreans are at least partially optimistic about their own future (79%). But when it comes to their children, the South Koreans are rather pessimistic. 53% agree with the statement that there is a risk that their children will have to cope with less wealth. Half of the respondents fear that their social and economic status is under increasing pressure (50%). A majority (50%) do not see themselves financially insured at retirement age.

Assessment of past 10 years

The majority of South Koreans feel an improvement has been made in their country in the areas of political participation (59%), social security (58%), innovation (54%), sustainable technologies (62%) and rural (52%) as well as urban (62%) infrastructures within the past 10 years.

Social cohesion

66% of South Korean voters believe that only a small minority is getting richer, while no one else is benefiting from growth, and 68% think that the state should do more to counter this development.

Battle against cilmate change

66% of the South Korean population want more government intervention to prevent companies from polluting the environment. This is relatively low compared to other countries. Meanwhile, 68% would like a more environmentally friendly economy compared to 24% who believe that the economy should focus solely on growth.

on behalf of: Credit Suisse

basic population: South Korean citizens with the right to vote

fieldwork: Cint AB

surveying: online panel

survey period: 20.09.2019-18.10.2019

sample size: min. 1000 per country, South Korea (N=1012)

margin of error: at 50/50 (and 95 percent probability) South Korea (± 3.1)

quota characteristics: age/gender interlocked

weighing: age/gender

survey duration: average survey time in minutes in South Korea = 12

Progress Index and Items:

Respondents were asked the following question: „For each of the areas below, assess the current development and imagine this development as a wheel that turns. For each case, decide whether the development should be accelerated or reversed.“ Ten statements asking about a development in society, economy and politics each were surveyed in all 16 countries. The adaption of these items to best suit the countries context were made in cooperation with local experts.

The following items were surveyed in South Korea:

Progress items economy:

service-based society: South Korea produces fewer goods and is turning into a service-based society.
digitalization: Digitization/robotization makes our working lives easier and more efficient, but it also makes traditional professions redundant.
free trade: The trade of goods is getting freer and more global.
lifelong learning: You have to do regular on-the-job training in order to keep up.
production outsourced: Many aspects of production are moved abroad.
low corporate taxes: Because of low corporate tax rates, many international companies move their head offices to South Korea.
influx foreign experts: South Korea needs more and more experts from abroad.
tax money for research: To strengthen South Korea as a research location, more taxpayers‘ money is spent on research.
development of agricultural land: Growing cities and major industrial and infrastructure projects mean that more and more agricultural land is being developed/Major infrastructure projects and ideas means that more and more cultivated land is built on.
e-mobility: Electric cars allow even more individual mobility with reduced emissions of climate-damaging substances./Mobility with electrically powered cars allows even more individual mobility with reduced emissions of climate-damaging substances.
tax money for research: To strengthen South Korea as a research location, more taxpayers money is spent on research.
gender equality: Gender equality is promoted in all areas of life.

Progress items society:

urban-rural contrast: People living in big cities and in small towns in the rural areas have fewer and fewer interests in common.
gay rights: Gay couples increasingly enjoy equal rights in all areas of life.
fewer independent media: There are fewer and fewer independent media outlets in South Korea.
expansion public childcare: Public daycare and childcare services are being expanded.
increase life expectancy: Advances in medicine means that we are healthier into old age, but at the same time we’ll have to work for longer.
professionalization voluntary work: Many areas of society that used to function on a voluntary basis are now being professionalized.
migration transforms society: Immigration transforms the composition of societies./Transmigration transforms the composition of societies.
sense of purpose in work: People increasingly look for passion and meaning in their work.
petrol tax: Additional taxes on petrol are demanded worldwide in order to slow down climate change.

Progress items politics:

underground transport: Some have suggested shifting transportation to an underground road or rail network to ensure that South Korea retains ist beautiful landscape.
increase in pension deductions: Wage deductions for pensions are increasing because people are living longer.
increase in development aid: South Korea’s contributions to global development cooperation are increasing.
dependence on international agreements: When it comes to its global market position, South Korea is increasingly dependent on international agreements with other countries.
individualization and self fulfillment: With increasing individualization, social pressure diminishes and everyone can live by their own values.
regulation increase: More and more everyday things are becoming more strictly regulated./The state ensures that many parts of life and work are clearly regulated.
transition to knowledge based society: South Korea is turning into a knowledge-based society and is spending less on agriculture and instead more on universities and higher education.
accessability trough social media: People can organise themselves spontaneously via the internet and force policy-makers to become more accessible to the public.
polarization: Politics is becoming increasingly polarised and cooperation between the parties more difficult.
media diversity vs. reliability: While more and more sources of information are available to form a political opinion, the facts become less important.