Gi-Hun, the main protagonist of Squid Game, a South Korean survival drama television series, turned his back on an old man Il-Nam, in order to win the Marble Game. He tried not to reveal his feelings and chose to cheat Il-Nam out of his marbles, leaving behind all the memories of Il-Nam looking out for him in every game they had been forced to play. He betrayed the old man’s trust.

We don’t need to be in an extreme situation, such as in Squid Game where lives are at stake if we want to see how difficult it is to build and maintain trust. Every moment and aspect of our lives reminds us of that. Honestly, I would say that it takes a long time to gain trust but just a brief moment to lose it.

South Korea has the 109th largest land area in the world, the 27th largest population, and the 12th highest GDP. Perhaps the most significant of these figures is that it has retained number one in college enrollment rate for years now. What does this number mean? It means that, with so many people living in a small country, competition has become fierce. It can be said that these factors have caused Koreans to raise their standards for trust in some ways and to be more wary of institutions and the government. The reason for its high standards may also be that Koreans have suffered a lot over the past years. As a very educated and fiercely competitive population, they have a healthy distrust of government and institutions and are loath to be taken advantage of.

In South Korea, a quick check online will find you the lowest price available for any goods you want to buy, the most competitive home prices, important details about doctors, etc. Most Koreans are not easily cajoled into doing something because they have always double-checked their options. They make informed decisions based on extensive research. Before purchasing products, making medical appointments, or buying homes, Koreans are online finding the best possible options. Before acting, they research and weigh all options thoroughly.

The GRBN Global Trust Survey 2022, like Survey 2020, was conducted, coincidentally, right after South Korea’s election. It was the Presidential election in 2022 and the general election in 2020. The 2022 Election was nail-biting and heavily contested. Dozens of inflicting survey results were published every couple of days. People were confused. They were not sure which one was most accurate and closest to the truth. Some believed what they wanted while others put their faith in the results of trusted research companies. And still others did not trust the survey results at all.

Right after the polling stations closed, an alliance of research companies released highly accurate exit poll results. This led to an increase in public trust. Research companies should employ more scientific methods in their analysis to meet high standards of citizens, particularly, women and the young generation. It goes without saying that research companies must be objective and maintain a neutral stance.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the excellence of South Korea’s public healthcare system was apparent. As of September 2022, the WHO survey data said that, among 38 OECD member countries, the COVID-19 death toll in South Korea ranked 37th, about 52.4 cases per 100,000 people. This low rate is about one tenth of Hungary’s death toll of 492.6 per 100,000. This outcome positively influenced Korean trust in government.

Minhee Cho