Since subjective well-being emerged as a policy goal, its determinants have gained increasing research attention. Subjective well-being is usually measured in terms of “happiness,” “life satisfaction” and “positive affect.” Study after study has confirmed that Koreans’ subjective well-being remains far below the level their material well-being suggests. The markedly-low level of subjective well-being has prompted various analyses and recommendations, academically and policy-wise alike. The question of why Koreans are more anxious than their objective living conditions seem to justify has been taken up by many research attempts that seek ways to design appropriate micro-level policy interventions. Some other studies concerned have pointed out the limitations of the Korean growth model, suggesting that policy efforts should be geared toward raising quality of life.
Subjective social indicators mirror to a considerable degree the social circumstances of the times when they are surveyed. This makes it important to consider the social context from which the subjective social indicators under observation are taken.
In measuring social integration levels, we used, along with objective indicators like poverty and inequality, such subjective indicators as “social trust” and “sense of solidarity.” Drawing on KIHASA’s Perceived Social Cohesion, the Gallup World Poll, and Statistics Korea’s Social Survey, this study looked at the changes in subjective indicators in the last three years, a period marked by the disastrous incidents like the Sewol ferry capsize and the MERS outbreak.