South Korean Millennials May Be The Saddest Millennials Of All

Feb 25, 2015 at 2:58 PM ET

Despite South Korea’s bustling economy and top-notch educational performance, millennials in the country are unconvinced about their future prospects, according to the Pew Research Center.

Pew used the same questions to study dozens of countries—including the U.S., U.K. and Japan—and found that South Korea is the only place where people ages 18 to 33 have a bleaker view of the future than older generations, ages 50 and up. More than half of the millennial respondents say the children of today will not be better off than their parents.

It’s a surprisingly dark outlook, considering the educational system has been heralded as a model of achievement in South Korea, where students score higher than those in most other countries. South Korea also has the highest percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with a college or vocational degree. Yet only 32 percent say education is an important key to success, and a mere 22 percent say hard work is very important to getting ahead in life.

Though the study doesn’t offer any conclusions or surmise the why behind the numbers, the results seem to indicate a generational gap in point of view. For example, South Korean millennials look much more favorably on Japan (30 percent) than their elders (14 percent), most likely because of a long history of disputes between the countries.

But also consider this: The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development estimates that 49 percent of South Korea’s elderly population lives in poverty. And in 2011, more than 4,000 people over the age of 65 took their own lives—the highest suicide rate among any of the neighboring nations. The problem is so prevalent that the government has sponsored “well-dying” classes to teach seniors how to prepare for death.

With stats like that, the future’s got to be brighter.