How Americanized is Korean society?

One marker might be that they are starting not to save as they did in days of recent yore.

Korea has a lot to do, though, if it is going to match the United States zero savings rate.

("World's biggest spendthrift" is one of those superlatives that perhaps we shouldn't be aspiring to as a nation, no?

INSIDE JoongAng Daily: "Korea marked its 44th National Savings Day yesterday, yet with diminished public attention as diversified asset management tools and higher spending have contributed to a falling savings rate in an increasingly wealthy society. The Bank of Korea, which co-hosted the celebration with the Ministry of Finance, said the number of awardees recognized for their contribution to savings totaled just 99, falling below 100 for the first time since the day was designated. The number of awardees was 426 as late as 2000 but dropped to 100 last year.
Prize winners are selected on the recommendation of various financial institutions. Candidates are not only required to have a sincere pattern of savings but also to lead an exemplary life, including performing volunteer work, according to the Ministry of Finance.
Along with the smaller number of awardees, the scale of the celebration has shrunk. In the 1970s, when Korea was building its industrial base and saving money was a patriotic duty, the president attended the event and personally decorated outstanding savers. The governor of the BOK now presides over the modest event.
“It is worrisome that the household savings ratio has been retreating at a rapid pace lately,” Lee Sung-tae, the BOK governor, said in his speech. “Rising youth unemployment, high property prices and an aging population are the major culprits behind a lower savings ratio. Weakening awareness of the importance of savings is another key cause.”
Ostentatious spending, Lee warned, could harm the economy.
Over the past decade, individuals’ savings ratio, or the proportion of net deposits divided by disposable income, has been on a downward spiral. The reading was 16 percent in 1995, 9.9 percent in 2000 and 5.7 percent in 2004. Last year the ratio stood at just 3.5 percent.
Lee Byung-yoon, a senior economist with the Korea Institute of Finance, said bank deposits losing their appeal is a natural phenomenon. “The means of multiplying one’s assets has stretched to stocks, mutual funds and other options,” he said. “Now the country has achieved a certain level of economic progress and large companies no longer need credit loans.”


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