Despite material prosperity, the low happiness level of Korean people is generating more discussions on happiness within the society. However, there is still a lack of preparation for analyzing happiness in detail and applying happiness to our lives.
Thus this research aimed to theoretically define the concept of happiness, and scientifically measure happiness to provide a basic framework of happiness that can be applied to our everyday lives. The research consisted of the conceptualization of happiness, establishing a happiness indicator system and developing a happiness index, analysis of happiness by regions, and analysis of factors that determine happiness and happiness inequality by region.
If existing research on happiness was centered on pleasure and subjective well-being, this research presented and used various areas of happiness (health, safety, environment, economy, education, relationship and social participation, and leisure) to secure a basic life in which humans can enjoy dignity and value, based on the theory of competence. In addition, the research also added subjective satisfaction, which is an important factor of happiness, to calculate the happiness index of the Korean people.
After calculating the happiness level for Koreans, it was shown that the top 20% in terms of happiness was mostly centered in the Seoul metropolitan area and the Jeolla provinces. There were similar regional tendencies for other areas as well, except for economy. However, there were no significant differences by region in the subjective life satisfaction that used the data of life satisfaction.
There were also differences by regions from the subcategories of happiness. As major indices related to health are closely connected to medical and health facilities, major cities occupied the top ranking places. Although rural areas occupied the top places in relation to safety, environment, and leisure, major cities were ranked higher in terms of economy. There were no differences by region in education in comparison to other areas, and there was no clear trend for the top places in relationships and social participation. Those living in rural areas and small to medium-sized cities tended to have relatively higher life satisfaction.
The results of this research may be used to suggest the directions for political intervention to reduce the gap in happiness by region. First, it is suggested that in order to improve the happiness level, political goals should be focused on increasing regional competencies rather than on growth. Also, instead of implementing uniform policies such as providing cash benefits, it is necessary to develop various policies customized to individuals and regions.