In this paper, we examine whether disasters affect social trust levels using South Korean panel data from 2014–2016. We also investigate whether the effects of disasters on social trust differ depending on the type of disaster. We consider four types of disasters: typhoons, heavy rain, heavy snow and strong winds and waves. Our findings show that although all of these disasters influence the level of generalized social trust, each type has separate impacts. In our findings, there is a statistically significant positive relationship between cumulative damage costs per capita and social trust levels for heavy rain, heavy snow and strong winds and waves but we find the opposite result for typhoons. In the disaster recovery process, it is possible for social trust to be strengthened and weakened at the same time. Social trust can develop when victims such as neighbors and firefighters interact with others. Conversely, when a local government responds slowly to a disaster, dissatisfaction and discontent toward it can increase and this could weaken social trust. Moreover, disaster-affected individuals may be more competitive over limited resources, resulting in conflicts among them. Thus, we argue that the net effects of disasters on social trust levels can differ based on the speed of government responses to disasters and on active support for the victims from people such as neighbors.
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