puppydog85 wrote:what would be the big social issues up for debate?
Good question! One thing I have to admit I like better about South Korea than the US is there are very few huge divisive social issues and even when they do pop up they still take a far backseat to economic issues. In fact, the biggest social issue I can think of is the increasing gap between rich and poor, and that's really an economic issue itself. Unfortunately dumb issues like island disputes and mad cow hysteria also take precedence over more legitimate things to worry about, in my opinion.
As far as more traditional social issues go, the number one would be about the education system and educational reform. It may be a stereotype, but in this case it's one based in fact to say that East Asian parents (and Korean parents more specifically) are fairly obsessed with education. I mentioned a few posts above about the changes that have occurred in schools in the last decade or so. Those are just the tip of the iceberg. Everything you can possibly think of related to education is constantly up for debate and argued about. An unfortunate side effect of this is the politicians all promise "change" and when they get elected the completely undo whatever their predecessors have done. Regardless of which policies you support, it's not a good thing to have drastically changing ones every 4-5 years, especially regarding education.
The sex industry is another contender for on-again off-again hot button issue. I also touched on this in a previous post but in recent years it's been the sex workers who have been making noise about legally being allowed to ply their trade once again. Also I mentioned earlier about the high-pressure school system here. This contributes to their being a ton of girls who drop out of school and turn to prostitution as a way to get by. That's a growing social issue, along with women beginning to speak out more and report sexual assaults. It's not nearly as bad as India here (and never was) but still until recently a shockingly small number of sexual violence went unreported and that's slowly beginning to change.
The distressingly high suicide rates, especially among teenagers is a big issue, as I mentioned in a previous post.
Maybe addiction would be the last big one I can think of. Koreans seem at least superficially to be more easily addicted to whatever than western folk. Be it tobacco, alcohol, gambling, internets or what have you I'd bet the rate of addiction among Koreans is higher than that of an average western country.
All in all though, most of these issues still come down to economics at their base. Even education is just the means to having wealthy kids in the future. Oh yeah that one's become pretty big recently--the rapidly aging society! It's no exaggeration to say that old people and young people are increasingly at odds with each other over the allotment of resources, and that's only going to get worse.Actually I'm not happy with most of my answers here after the first two paragraphs. I wrote it in a hurry before a class and it transitioned into social problems, rather than social issues people actually talk about which are two totally different things. I'll come back and add more when I have time.