Examining National Character and Development in Selected Southeast Asian Countries and South Korea
This essay investigated the relationship between the development of a nation and the characteristics of its people. In this investigation, the construct used to embody the characteristics of the people living in a particular country is national character and the development of a nation is viewed here using the socio-economic and political lenses. The countries chosen upon which this investigation was anchored were South Korea and three Southeast Asian (SEA) nations, namely, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
In examining the national character of the aforementioned countries, Hofstede’s measures of cultural values (Hofstede’s 6-D model) were used. In measuring the development level these countries have reached, their scores and corresponding ranks in the Human Development Index (HDI) were compared. The descriptive-comparative structure was used in the discussion.
The investigation sought answers to the following questions: 1) How may the national character of the selected SEA countries and South Korea be described in terms of Hofstede’s measures of cultural values?; 2)What is the current status of development in these countries as indicated in their latest HDI rank?; 3) What inferences could be made as to how national development in these countries is associated with their national character as described using Hofstede’s measures of cultural values?; and 4) What can SEA countries learn from South Korean models in terms of national character and socio-economic and political development?
Hofstede’s 6-D model show that the South Koreans are the least hierarchical, most collectivist, the most feminine, the most uncomfortable with uncertainty, the most long-termed oriented, and the most restrained among the group of people whose national culture and human development were analyzed. The Malaysians are the most hierarchical and indulgent while the Filipinos are the most individualistic. Only the Philippines has a masculine society, and its citizens are the most short-term oriented. Of the three Southeast Asian nations, Vietnam is the most long-term oriented.
The cultural dimensions that are considered significantly correlated with wealth are power distance, individualism-collectivism, and long-term orientation. The less hierarchical, more collectivist, and more long-term oriented a country is, the wealthier and developed it could become. The South Koreans are the least hierarchical, the most collectivistic, and the most long-termed oriented. Of the four countries chosen for this analysis, South Korea is ranked the highest in the Human Development Index. Among the three Southeast Asian countries, Malaysia has the best score in the Human Development Index.
This investigation concluded that the development of a nation could be affected by the characteristics of its people. The South Koreans have certain characteristics, as shown in their scores in Hofstede’s 6-D model, that helped them consistently ranked high in the Human Development Index. People in Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian nations may perhaps consider embracing, not only the music, movies, TV dramas, food, and fashion of the South Koreans but also their cultural and behavioral orientations that are considered positive and applicable to them. In particular, the leaders of the said countries should consider looking at South Korean models when formulating their policies in the fields of education, research and development but at the same time also study how they could avoid the social problems besetting South Korea.
Keywords: National Character, National Development, Culture, Hofstede’s Cultural Dimension Theory, Human Development Index