Why is South Korea more advanced and successful than China?

The premise is debatable. Let’s take an unbiased look at the achievements of each country in the last 20 years:

China since 1999:

-Has lifted millions out of poverty

-Sustained enormous YoY GDP growth under Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping

-Hosted their first Olympics

-Rose up to surpass Japan as the world’s second largest economy

-Has technologically caught up to both Japan and SK with high speed bullet trains, 5G wireless technology and smartphone technology

-Now has the world’s second largest military budget after the USA

-Dominated the economically developing world with initiatives in SE asia, middle east + africa with the 1B1R initiative

-Owns a significant portion of the Hollywood industry: Legendary Pictures for example is wholly owned by a Chinese company

-Boasts the world’s second largest tech startup scene after Silicon Valley in the USA

-Has the world’s second most billionaires after the USA

-Chinese brands like Lenovo, Huawei, Oppo, Xiaomi, ZTE, DJI, Hisense, etc have risen up and overtaken Korean/Japanese brands

-Approval rate of Xi Jinping at over 85%

-China global approval rating has surpassed the USA China’s global approval rating has surpassed the U.S.

South Korea since 1999:

-GDP/capita remains the fourth highest in Asia, after Singapore, Japan and ROC (Taiwan)

-Economy was hugely impacted by the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis; since then the economy has been growing but at a far slower rate than China has

-Technology wise, Samsung and LG have overtaken Japanese brands Sharp, Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Pioneer, Toshiba, Fujitsu, NEC etc and essentially pushed them out of the market. Hyundai and Kia have caught up to Toyota, Honda and Nissan with regards to quality perception.

-Continues to develop great public infrastructure, the fastest internet speeds in the world and free public wifi anywhere Every public place in Seoul will have free WiFi by 2017

-Minimum wage increased but unemployment rate, especially for the youth, continues to lag behind other developed countries

-Startup scene in South Korea is still quite anemic due to the remnants of the conservative Chaebol culture which continues to dominate the South Korea work industry; this makes it wary for investors to offer venture capital, and more difficult for small companies to compete which leads to the unemployment rate situation above

-Moon Jae In (President of SK) approval rating at a mere 45% Moon’s approval ratings at 45% after 2 years in office – Koreans have rarely sustained high approval ratings for their Presidents due to corruption, scandals, and the generally more conservative society

-Korean entertainment scene has exploded and KPop and KDramas and ‘Hallyu’ has made Korea into one of the most popular entertainment juggernauts in the world

So back to the OP’s question, is South Korea really more advanced and successful than China? Perhaps in only a few areas.

-GDP/Capita -> China is catching up on this front, but the reason SK had a huge head start is because they had a market economy for 2 decades longer than China did, and because SK was one of the four East Asian Tigers (all small East Asian countries), it developed very fast in the 70s-90s, China had to struggle under the Mao era for 2 decades.

-Entertainment industry -> China’s heavy handed approach to censorship kind of handicaps them in this area, but China’s entertainment industry is mostly domestic focused. They have such a big domestic market that they don’t need to export that industry yet. South Korea on the other hand, has to export in order to survive, and they’ve perfected the art of marketing to foreigners at this point, which is why they have succeeded so well with their Hallyu industry. It’s worth to mention that China owns many Hollywood studios as well, which also means they don’t need to necessarily export their own movies; they can just leverage Hollywood movies to make money.

In the economic, business and technology sense, China has caught up and/or exceeded Korea.

How close are China, Korea and Japan culturally, socially, and historically?

This is a complex topic, but I can generalize and simplify it best as, Korea and Japan took cultural cues from Ancient China but their culture eventually diverged as their countries became more developed and unique.

China was the most influential state in East Asia for most of its history. The biggest change to Chinese culture occurred after the fall of the Qing Dynasty – the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912 and after that the People’s Republic of China in 1949 eliminated or lessened a great deal of its ancient customs including the influence of Confucianism and Buddhism in everyday society. It also developed its own character set, Simplified Chinese. Modern day China today operates as a single party controlled capitalist state – the closest country that can be compared is modern day Russia – which is for all intents and purposes also a single party controlled capitalist state. It retains a semblance of its ancient culture but only minimally.

Ancient Japan (Yamato) took a great deal of its customs (including Confucianism and Buddhism) from Ancient China but especially Tang China / Song China – after the Mongol Yuan dynasty took hold and relationships with Japan deteriorated, Japan mostly isolated itself after the Tokugawa Shogunate took hold. Japan still uses traditional Chinese characters (Kanji) in addition to its own character sets today. Modern day Japan is more or less its own culture which remains quite distinct from modern day China.

Ancient Korea (Silla/Goryeo/Joseon) took a great deal of its customs (including Confucianism and Buddhism) from Ancient China but especially Ming China with which it had a great relationship – but after the Manchu Qing Dynasty took hold – relations deteriorated and Joseon mostly isolated itself as the ‘Hermit Kingdom’ and developed its own culture. Korea used to use traditional Chinese characters (Hanja) but its has almost all been replaced by Hangeul (the Korean alphabet) today. Korea was colonized by Japan in the early 1900s and a lot of Japanese culture – including the strict hierarchical society and ‘chaebol’ work culture – was adopted by Korea.Today’s Korea is a mix of Ancient Chinese culture and modern Japanese culture. North Korea remains more or less, a smaller version of Mao-era China.

As a bonus, I’ll thrown in Taiwan as well.

Taiwan was minimally populated in the Qing dynasty but became more developed after Japan took control of Taiwan in the late 1800s – after the PRC won the Civil War the KMT fled to Taiwan and took with it the remnants of Ancient Chinese culture/ROC culture with it, including the use of Traditional Chinese characters. Today’s Taiwan is a mix of ROC culture and Japanese culture.

Obviously this is all very high level but I think it provides a nice general overview.

Why is baseball popular in Japan, Korea, and Taiwan?

Baseball is very popular in Taiwan, Japan and South Korea but not other Asian countries. Why is that?

If I had to guess, it’s probably because during early 20th century when baseball was the most dominant sport in America, Japan got caught up in it – at this time Japan was militarily the most dominant country in Asia. They were influenced by global trends and baseball was a global trend at the time. To this day, Japan boasts the best professional league outside the MLB.

South Korea and Taiwan were colonies of Japan at that time and they too got caught up in the baseball trend. Remember, Koreans and Taiwanese were forced to speak Japanese during that time.

Baseball wasn’t popular in China because during that time China was very fragmented. The Qing Dynasty had collapsed just decades earlier and China under the ROC was fragmented among various regional warlords all vying for control, and Manchuria was under Japanese control at the time. Most Chinese were impoverished and illiterate at the time. Except for Shanghai which was considered the ‘Paris of the East’ at the time, the other parts of China wasn’t a good time for Chinese people (hence why Communism became popular) and they hardly had any leisure time to preoccupy themselves with baseball  (which required substantial equipment, team + setup to play, compared with basketball or other sports).

Basketball became popular in China because of Yao Ming; when he joined the NBA he brought along a billion fans with him. Taiwanese also watched Yao Ming as one of their own.

Basketball is not as popular in Japan and Korea because they didn’t have any star player in the NBA. On the other hand – Japan and Korea have professional players in the MLB – Ichiro Suzuki and Ryu Hyun-Jin respectively, whereas China has none – and that is another reason why baseball isn’t as popular in China.