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Management Report

Management reports, briefs issued by Samsung Economic Research Institute

Making Healing Better

Making Healing Better

LEE Seung-Chul, KANG Chan-Koo, LEE Min-Hoon, LEE Eunmi

June 3, 2013

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"Healing," or bringing mental and physical health in balance, is the latest cultural buzzword in Korea. The Japanese media introduced the concept in 1997 as a healing boom began to unfold. In the US, "well-being" is the catchword. It too caught on in Korea but has given way to "healing" since 2010 as evidenced by a slew of books and TV programs doling out self-help prescriptions.

The number of books with "healing" in the title peaked in Japan in 1997 but turned sharply upward in Korea in 2010 as "well-being" titled books dropped precipitously. Meanwhile, in the US, "well-being" has remained the overwhelming choice.

The conditions in which interest in the healing concept has emerged defy any precise description. It has appeared during periods of prolonged low economic growth amid rising incomes or when economic and psychological difficulties were aggravated. The 1990s healing boom in Japan occurred during the nation's so-called "lost decade," when its suicide rate spiked upward. In Korea, the boom has come amid growing concerns of persistent low growth due to financial crisis even as per capita gross national income remains above US$20,000. In the US, per capita income topped US$20,000 in 1988, a similar time when Japan's topped that level, but as growth remained solid before the global financial crisis, well-being rather than healing is grabbing attention.

The healing boom has spawned a niche industry in Korea. It includes businesses offering psychological care, meditation, yoga and spa. Temple stays is one aspect that has tremendous growth. The number of overnight guests reached 213,000 in 2011 compared to 51,000 in 2005. Trademark applications related to healing also have increased sharply, from 26 in 2008 to 72 in 2011. In Japan, the healing industry has started in earnest thanks to the health and relaxation boom. In the West, spa and relaxation tourism continue to gain popularity. The global spa tourism market stands at US$55 billion and relaxation tourism around US$110 billion.

This paper examines the background of the healing boom and presents direction for its growth into a holistic system for all of society.

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