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[Opinion] Success and Happiness

Posted October. 30, 2007 03:28,   


Everyone dreams of success and happiness, but when asked to elaborate on what is success or happiness, we tend to be at a loss for words.

What is the ‘relationship’ between success and happiness? A renowned scholar in human relationship psychology, Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), said, “"Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get..” Legendary Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova (1881-1931) said, “When a small child, I thought that success spelled happiness. I was wrong, happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights us for one brief moment, but soon flits away.”

Korea has leaped to become a world economic power in recent decades, but our Happy Planet Index is relatively low. According to the New Economics Foundation (NEF) of Great Britain, which measured the Happy Planet Index (HPI) of 178 countries, Korea was placed 102. A national level of success does not necessarily increase people’s happiness, but the disparity between the two is too great in this case. Perhaps the peculiarly envious Korean nature may bring down the happiness level.

Vanuatu, a small island-nation in the southwest Pacific, ranked number one in the Happy Planet Index, which is a function of subjective life satisfaction, life expectancy at birth, and ecological footprint per capita. Vanuatu’s economic size is 203rd among the 233 nations of the world. The former presidential advisor for policy and one of the closest staffers to President Roh, Lee Jeong-woo, once emphasized that the low income Bangladeshi people enjoyed a very satisfactory happiness level. It sounded as if he meant to say happiness could be achieved regardless of income level. Obviously, one can be happy despite poverty. However, no one is happy because one is poor.

Success and happiness have emerged as the keywords to this presidential election. Grand National Party candidate Lee Myung-bak brandishes the slogan: ‘Wishing the Korean people success,’ while UNDP candidate Chung Dong-young puts the ‘family happiness era’ at the forefront. Candidate Lee claims he will connect economic growth with people’s success stories, while candidate Chung sees ‘non-discriminatory growth’ as the premise to family happiness. Success and happiness sound fancy, but it feels like they are missing out the core gist of things. More so when we consider how much pain the people have had to suffer with the advent of an eloquently spoken president five years ago.

Jeong Seong-hee, Editorial Writer, shchung@dong.com