Life in South Korea VS North Korea

Life in South Korea VS North Korea

Life in South Korea VS North Korea

North Korea and South Korea are not just two countries with similar names. They are not just neighbors. In an ideal situation, the two countries are twin nations. The entire Korean peninsula was once a single country about a century ago. When Second World War tore the country in two, the United States and the Soviet Union got opportunities to carve it down in the middle and form two distinct nations severed by neocolonialism promoting two ruling opposing ideologies.

While the dust of World War II was settling, it became apparent that Japan which that had occupied the peninsula for decades would surrender to the Allied forces. The global concern then was about what would be Korea’s fate. The truce 70 years ago was to divide Korea along the 38th parallel in August 1945. Thus, the United States agreed to take the southern part of the country while the northern part would come under the control of the Soviet Union. That was 70 years ago. Since then, have the two Koreas lost their unifying factor? Let’s compare life in South Korea and life in North Korea to find the answer.

Life in South Korea vs North Korea

To analyze life in South Korea versus life in North Korea, many factors must be considered. After the end of the hostilities of the Korean War in 1953, the two Koreas took dramatically different paths. The different paths they took had two different effects on their economies and living standards. The difference is crystal clear; everyone who cares can see it.

As the two countries got separated by the demilitarized zone (DMZ), a 25o kilomteres-wide strip running along the 38th parallel splitting the peninsula roughly in half, South Korea inherited an economy that could be grown to be one of the world’s most advanced. At the same time, a dictatorial dynasty having a tight grip on the economy was bequeathed to the Koreans in the northern side.

It doesn’t take astronomical science; neither would you need to be a researcher to see how life would be defined in these two countries. Which country fares better? For the avoidance of doubt, consider the following facts.

What Is Life Like in South Korea?

South Korea has joined the class nations of the world enjoying great political and economic freedom. Following the Korean War, South Korea has been reaping the dividends of democracy installed in the country. The form of government in South Korea is centralized democracy.  

Life in South Korea VS North Korea

South Korea is also doing great economically. Being the home of Samsung and Hyundai alone is a strong attestation to the favorableness of life in South Korea. Let’s now consider some facts about living in conditions and economy of the country in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula. 

Life Expectancy

South Koreans have one of the highest life expectancies in the world. South Korean men are expected to live up to their mid-80s while women stand a chance of living into their mid-90s. This long life expectancy is not unconnected with free and universal healthcare coverage and quality diets consisting of steam-cooked rice, meat, and vegetables.

Universal Healthcare

Since 1989, South Korea has adopted an affordable universal healthcare system. Since South Koreans grow old, the country has plans to help citizens treat dementia. This explains the long life expectancy in North Korea.

Climate Change

South Korean air is one of the most polluted in the world as the country is affected by smog and other particulate matters. That’s why the country is taking serious actions on climate change. Authorities of the Korean National Institute of Environmental Research are collaborating with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), NASA, and other organizations to improve air quality in the country.

Long Work Weeks

South Koreans are workaholics but not by choice. They work more than most other people as they must spend about 52 (formerly 68) hours per week working. The case of overworked South Koreans is gradually receiving attention because the country cares about mental health. Work may be reduced to 40 hours while the extra 12 hours will be optional and with full payment for them.

Suicide Rates

The suicide rate in South Korea is alarming, one of the highest in the world. Work-related stress is a big factor and this may be connected to spending long hours of work. The South Korean legislators are assiduously looking to that.

Plans to Boost the Economy

To free more funds and increase the minimum wage, South Korea is decreasing its infrastructure spending. The idea is to increase South Korea’s spending budget every year. The aim of the policy is to increase the number of jobs and have the workers well remunerated.

Credit Access

Credit is more accessible in South Korea than in many other countries. They’re among the highest credit card users. Back in 2011, South Koreans used an average of almost 130 credit card transactions person. Businesses in the country could be fined for refusing credit cards for the smallest purchases.

Youth Unemployment

Despite the strength of the country’s economy, over 11 percent of youths between 15 and 29 are unemployed. This is amazing since large electronic and automobile companies such as Samsung, LG, and Hyundai are in South Korea.

Low Violence Rates

The rates of terrorism and violence are low in South Korea because the citizens greatly respect the rule of law. Data from different sources including the World Bank shows that South Koreans have a great reference for courts and due process. The impeachment of former President Park Geun-Hye in 2017 sent signals that the country’s legal system is solid.

Is it surprising that South Korea is faring this well? No, it should not. Peoples get the kind of leadership they install. Consequently, the quality of life and standard of living in a country will be as good as its leadership. That’s why South Koreans live long, enjoy good climate, have access to credit, experience low crime rates, and productively engage their youths.


What is Life Like in North Korea?

What is life like in North Korea? It’s difficult to say. That’s why life in North Korea has come under greater scrutiny in recent decades. Worries about political and economic stability in the country are increasing the curiosity of international communities about how life is in North Korea. Unfortunately, it is hard to describe the quality of life in this country without sounding too critical or negative.

Life in South Korea VS North Korea

The country’s leadership is succeeding remarkably in alienating the people from the outside world and vice versa. Therefore, North Koreans are contented or compelled to be coping with the political and economic situation in their country. While outsiders see life in North Korea as weird, repressive, and sad, I will try to show you here the real living condition in North Korea. 

Life Expectancy

North Koreans have a life expectancy of ten years younger for both sexes. Men in this country have a life expectancy of 69 while women are expected to live up to 80.


The country is being ruled by the Kim dynasty. Kim Jong-un’s dictatorship is currently in tight control. The young Supreme Leader Marshal born in 1982 succeeds his father who died in December 2011.

Isolated Economy

North Korean economy is not a vibrant one because the country’s maximum ruler is in full charge of almost all aspects of the economy including means of production and distribution. It hasn’t recovered from the devastating recession it suffered in the 1990s. The North Korean ruler places political survival ahead of economic development. Rather than developing economic structures, the country is forging ahead with its nuclear program. This has attracted severe international sanctions. Because there’s little reliable data from the government, only a little can be said about North Korea’s economic output.

No Internet Access

Can you imagine how life will be in modern times if your use of the Internet is censored, or if you can’t use it at all? Don’t be surprised; Internet access isn’t generally available in this country. Only some high-level government officials can access the global Internet. A few strictly monitored computers are provided in universities for the purpose of academics. Only the country’s national intranet, called Kwangmyong, is available to the citizenry. It’s not connected to the outside world. It was designed to browse fan pages of the Kim dynasty.

Restricted Freedom of Movement

North Koreans are usually not allowed to freely move around the country. Don’t just bother about traveling abroad. If a North Korean refuge manages to flee to China, he would be repatriated by force to North Korea. He would be beaten and serve terms in prison camps. Thus, if you’re allowed to travel to North Korea at all, you’re not free to move around. You’ll be restricted to a few designated tour areas and with a Korean guide. However, South Koreans and journalists are generally denied entry.

China’s Support

Though the North Korean regime prides itself in the doctrine of Juche, or self-reliance, the country always craves aid from international communities and some countries that haven’t sanctioned it. China, the biggest supporter of North Korea has been of big assistance on economic and diplomatic matters.


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Liberalization Steps

Realizing the futility and backwardness of trying to fully control the economy, North Korea is recently allowing small-scale free-market activities. This enables a growing middle-class of traders and small entrepreneurs to thrive. Kim is reportedly seeking to further develop and reform the economy by probably developing and exploiting its natural resources. Neighboring countries such as China and Russia are enthusiastic about investing in North Korea.

From what you have seen here, what’s your conclusion about life in North Korea? This truth is manifest again: The quality of life in a country is as good as the quality of its leadership. How else do you expect living conditions to be for people living in a country under a maximum ruler? You can add much more in your imagination.


 Basic Difference and Similarities

North Korea is among the most corrupt countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (PCI) while South Korea is far less corrupt.

Economists find it difficult to analyze the North Korean economy because of a lack of (reliable) data. On the other hand, South Korea’s economy is one of the world’s most advanced and most productive.

The two countries are official rivals with no peace between them 60 years after the Korean War. The DMZ that separated the countries is one of the most-heavily-armed borders in the world.

Life in South Korea is a reflection of a loud and proud form of capitalism as a constitutional democratic state while life in North Korea is badly restricted by authoritarianism.

Dishes are fairly similar in both countries. For instance, it’s believed in both countries that generational foods like Dduk (rice cake) and Yeot (confectionary) are believed to fetch good luck to students. Both countries also have similar celebrations such as New Year, Thanksgiving, and Daeboreum.


Though the two Koreas share the same name and origin, differences in life and living there make them two distinct nations. Do you have another index in life in South Korea vs life in North Korea? Please let us know in the comment section below.

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