South Korea

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Poverty turns persistent when there is great, increasing wealth elsewhere. According to the human rights theory of liberal individualism, the rich people of any society must have perfect freedom to increase their wealth, and go on increasing it, freedom being “a distinctive feature of the liberal individualist project.” On the other hand, the theory of communitarianism demands of the rich to respect the human rights of poor people in their quest for greater wealth. Poor folks are oft described as “oppressed,” and the rich are usually identified as the perpetrators of oppression. Hence, the practice of liberal individualism by the rich must be considered a moral crisis for society, if in fact the rich have been getting richer at the expense of the poor, as it happens in South Korea.

After all, poverty is known to rob the afflicted of their basic human rights, such as access to clean water, food, shelter, healthcare and acquirement of good quality education. Such people are described as ‘underprivileged.’ As the following case study of poverty and income inequality shows, even though Asia has a collectivistic culture where communitarianism should be fully applied, whereas liberal individualism is considered a theory applicable in the West alone, the ‘underprivileged’ abound in South Korea. Had collectivism or communitarianism not been combined with the practice of liberal individualism on the part of the rich and the powerful in South Korea, poverty and income inequality would have been nonexistent. While it is true that South Korea works to resolve these issues in the spirit of communitarianism, it remains a fact that liberal individualism is practiced by the rich people of South Korea in addit...

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