A Comparative Study of Inequality in Kenya and South Korea, 1960s - 2014

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University of Nairobi

Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies









A Comparative Study of Inequality

in Kenya and South Korea, 1960s - 2014









SEO SEOL HWA (R50/67362/2013)






Supervisor: Mr. Gerrishon. K. Ikiara






A Research Project Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of

The Degree of Master of Arts in International Studies

















I, SEO SEOL HWA, hereby declare that this research project is my original work and has not been presented for a degree in any other University.







Signed………………………………………… Date………………………………………….


















This project has been submitted for examination with my approval as University Supervisor;








Signed………………………………………… Date…………………………………………..





Mr. Gerrishon. K. Ikiara











This research project is dedicated to God, who has been gracious to me all the time. Without God, I couldn't have come to Kenya and completed my master's course. He has been faithful to the end and I learned that 'With God, all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).'


I also dedicate my research project to my father, Seo Hyo An, my mother, Baek Ji Hye, and my brother, Seo Ha Ryong. Their endless love and support have always encouraged me to overcome new challenges including this study.











First and foremost, I would like to appreciate the South Korean government for giving me the opportunity to study in Nairobi, Kenya. Thanks to that grand opportunity, I have been able to expand my knowledge, experience, and visions on Africa, particularly about Kenya.


I deeply appreciate my supervisor, Mr. Gerrishon K. Ikiara, for his kind and thoughtful guidance throughout this research.


I express my gratitude to all the faculty members and staffs at Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of  Nairobi  for  their  tentative  consideration of  me  and ensuring difficulties-free school life.


I would like to convey my sincere appreciation to my teachers at Hankuk University of


Foreign Studies for their great teachings and encouragement.




I must thank my classmates, especially Winnie, Lisa, Mike, Kiruri, and Moha, for always helping me to catch up in my studies and always encouraging me to read further and not to give up. I learned the spirit of 'Hakuna matata' from them.


I cannot forget to thank my relatives and friends in Korea for continuously cheering me up. Lastly, I would like to thank all those who made Kenya seem like my second home.











Inequality is the state in which resources and power are distributed unevenly and, therefore, people are divided into two groups: one with wealth and power and the other without. Even though inequality exists in every society, it must be resolved due to its negative impact on poverty reduction, economic growth, and socio-economic stability. Kenya and South Korea were in a similar economic situation in the early 1960s with substantially low GDP per capita and high poverty incidence. However, Kenya is one of highly unequal African countries while South Korea belongs to the 'East Asian Tigers', countries which successfully achieved sustained high economic growth with low and declining levels of inequality. This research examines changes in income and non-income inequality in Kenya and South Korea for the last 50 years using various indicators. The study tries to find out reasons why inequality levels have changed differently between the two countries and seeks lessons for resolving inequality and promoting inclusive growth. The findings of the research suggest that it is critical to provide decent job opportunities, expand educational opportunities, increase access to national health services, and invest in health sector for reducing income and non-income inequality and promoting growth with equity.


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