South Korea AidNorth and South Korea have been separated since the end of World War II when the Soviet Union took control of the northern half of the peninsula and the United States took over the South. The two halves of Korea have been at war with each other since.

North Korea has since become a nation of poverty. The greatest threats to North Korea are its water pollution, waterborne diseases, deforestation, soil erosion and degradation. In 2017, one in five North Koreans did not have access to clean water and 41 percent of people were undernourished. Since the country’s poverty level has been increasing, North Korea has been reliant on international aid. Recently, South Korea has announced it will be sending $8 million in food aid to North Korea.

The good news about South Korea’s $8 million aid is that it expected to begin reducing tension between the opposing governments while reducing poverty levels in the North. North Korea previously chose not to accept aid from the South. The Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un, is now open to receiving the aid due to the current harvest being the worst in the past decade and the current drought problem, which is currently the worst it has been in over three decades.

Expected Benefits

  • Decrease in Poverty LevelsFood aid will help the 40 percent of North Koreans that are suffering from severe food shortages. It will also provide access to clean water and reduce the number of people affected by waterborne diseases.
  • Vaccines and Medicine Will Also Be Provided – South Korea’s $8 million aid will also include $3.5 million in vaccines and medicine. This secondary aid is supplying treatments for malnutrition in children and pregnant women. It will also include other medicines for the population.
  • Tensions Between the North and South Should Improve – Despite tensions between the North and South, South Korea is still willing to give aid to the North regardless of the political situation between the two halves. This aid is letting the North know that South Korea is not willing to let those in need suffer.

Taking a Stand

Tensions between North and South Korea have been high since the end of World War II. In a press release, the South Korea Unification Ministry made it clear to the public that its tension with North Korea was not a reason to deny the country humanitarian aid. South Korea’s aid will begin to lessen those tensions. It will also provide food and medical aid to the suffering population and begin to reduce the poverty levels.

Most countries have been hesitant to send international aid to North Korea due to their involvement in missile and nuclear weapons developments. South Korea is taking a stand and using compassion to state that political issues do not affect the fact that almost half of the North Korean population is starving and in need of help.

Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Pixabay

Food Shortages in North Korea

Currently, food shortages in North Korea are severe. Over the last year, serious droughts, low crop yield and economic sanctions have pushed hunger levels in North Korea to crisis levels. The UN recently estimated that approximately 10 million North Koreans are in urgent need of food aid.

Last month, South Korea pledged to aid in reducing these food shortages, through a donation of 50,000 tons of rice and 4.5 million dollars to the World Food Programme. Once the World Food Programme can guarantee high standards of access and monitoring for this donation, they will oversee its delivery and distribution in North Korea.

Food Shortages in North Korea

Several factors have contributed to the severe food scarcity in North Korea, according to a UN report from May 2019. Conditions over the past year have been terrible for crop production. Prolonged dry spells, serious droughts, flooding and high temperatures prevented crops from growing normally. On top of this, UN experts expect post-harvest losses to be high as well. This is due to shortages of fuel and electricity. This will complicate the transport and storage of crops.

At the beginning of this year, food rations in North Korea fell to a mere 300 grams per person per day. The UN predicts these rations may fall even further in the coming months. The decreasing size of rations is important since the majority of North Koreans require these rations. The UN report estimates that 40 percent of North Koreans are in urgent need of food, while 70 percent of North Koreans depend on rations.

North Korea hasn’t experienced food scarcity of this magnitude, since a nationwide famine in the 1990s. While there is no definitive data for the 1990s famine, experts believe it caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of North Koreans. These food shortages could cause similar fatalities if food aid isn’t provided quickly.

South Korea’s Food Donation

On June 19, the World Food Programme officially accepted the donation from the Republic of Korea. South Korea has pledged 4.5 million dollars, as well as a direct donation of 50,000 tons of rice. These donations will help approximately 1.5 to 2 million children, pregnant women and nursing mothers.

This donation represents South Korea’s largest donation to food aid in North Korea since 2008. That donation was when South Korea contributed 5,000 tons of rice to relieve food scarcities in North Korea. South Korea’s unification minister, Kim Yeon-Chul, stressed that the South Korean government couldn’t ignore the struggles of its northern neighbor. For South Korea, this donation represents a step forward in the relationship between the two countries.

Looking Forward

Despite the monumental donation from South Korea, the World Food Programme estimates food shortages in North Korea will require more aid. It estimates a need of approximately 300,000 metric tons of food and the equivalent of 275 million dollars of supplies. Though UN sanctions do not limit humanitarian aid to North Korea, the international political situation has made it difficult to reliably distribute aid in the area. However, South Korea’s government believes its donation will cross the border. Overall, the country hopes it will bolster efforts towards reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Flickr

Education in South Korea

South Korea has long led the pack in terms of academic benchmarks. However, when addressing academic performance, analysts explain that emphasis should be placed on the achievements of individual students rather than giving credit to a loosely-defined education system that valorizes bureaucracy rather than pupils. In the end, South Korean scholars practice extreme self-discipline and must cope with acute stress to maximize their academic performance and to carry South Korea to the forefront of global education rankings. These eight facts about education in South Korea catch a glimpse into the life of students and the rigorous curriculum.

8 Facts about Education in South Korea

  1. Schooling is compulsory in South Korea until the age of 15. Pupils begin their education at 6-years-old when they attend primary school. When they reach 12-years-old, they transition to a lower secondary school for three years. At 15-years-old, South Korean students decide to continue their education by completing an entrance exam and committing to an Academic Senior Secondary School or a Vocational Senior Secondary School.
  2. In 2012, South Korea offered free half-day kindergartens for children of ages 3-5. Parents also have the option of enrolling their children in tuition-based private preschools, although the former option is becoming more popular. At a rate surpassing 90 percent, enrollment in early childhood education is very high compared to the rest of the world.
  3. Before attending a university, South Korean students enrolled in secondary school must take the suneung, the extremely rigorous and fateful college entrance exam that largely governs one’s future. On the day of the suneung, flight paths are diverted around testing centers to prevent test-takers from losing focus on the exam. Months, and even years leading up to the suneung, parents will enroll their children in weekend and after-school test preparatory academies called hagwons. These are notoriously referred to as cram houses.
  4. Discipline serves as the bedrock of education in South Korea. Students are obliged to rise and bow when their teachers enter the classroom, and South Koreans generally tend to have enormous respect for their mentors. Along with principal subjects such as science, mathematics and language, civil morality is a central pillar manifested in curricula throughout the entirety of compulsory schooling.
  5. A strongly-rooted cultural emphasis on discipline becomes blurred with the stress epidemic. The typical school day in South Korea begins at 8 a.m. and ends around 5 p.m., and following a short break at home, many students return to school libraries or hagwons to study into the later hours of the evening, sometimes even until midnight.  The stresses of attaining educational achievement sometimes reap fatal outcomes; in South Korea, suicide is the leading cause of death among teenagers.
  6. South Korean students consistently perform among the best in the world, according to statistics of standardized test scores and college drop-out rates. Although the South Korean education system placed third in the world during the first quarter of 2019, it was ranked as the best in the world for four consecutive years from 2013-2017.
  7. Alongside learning subjects such as basic Korean language and mathematics, students in grades one and two take subjects that reaffirm South Korean values that emphasize happiness and discipline, such as “Good Life,” “Happy Life” and “Wise Life.”
  8. Following major reforms beginning in 1995, education in South Korea has been transitioning from focusing on optimizing standardized test results and cramming students for college entrance exams to implementing a new curriculum that incorporates the humanities and realities of a globalized world. Class lectures emphasize community and global citizenry, and teachers underscore the importance of learning about new cultures and foreign intellect.

These eight facts about education in South Korea show mixed results for students. South Korean students have incredible performance rates, yet they are also susceptible to high stress-induced suicide rates. It is worth taking a critical look at their curriculum to better understand what works and what doesn’t.

– Grayson Cox
Photo: Flickr

Seoul, South Korea

Since the Korean War, South Korea has emerged as one of the more politically and economically free nations in the world. Home to companies like Samsung and Hyundai, South Korea’s economy has been growing for years. While South Korea has become a model for other countries in southeastern Asia, the country is also facing new challenges that a strong economy alone cannot fix. Here is a list of the top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in South Korea

  1. Life Expectancy: The life expectancy rate is one of the highest in the world. South Koreans, on average, have a life expectancy range that goes into the mid-80s for men and into the 90s for women. This means the country has one of the highest life expectancies in the world, a benefit to having free, universal healthcare coverage. Koreans’ diets consist of steam-cooked rice, vegetables and meat, constituting a healthy meal and contributing to a long and healthy life.
  2. Credit Access: South Korea is among the world’s top countries with high credit card usage. South Koreans averaged almost 130 credit card transactions per person in 2011, according to the Bank of Korea. Additionally, it is illegal for businesses to refuse credit cards, even for smaller purchases. This has created a bustling tourism and shopping industry in South Korea.
  3. High Suicide Rate: The suicide rate in South Korea is among the highest in the world. It is believed that the high suicide rate is due to the long work hours and stress in the workplace. Another factor contributing to these high rates is the level of poverty and loneliness among the elderly. The country has taken preventative measures to combat such a tragic statistic. Korean legislature continues to update and improve the Mental Health Act. The Act for the Prevention of Suicide and the Creation of Culture of Respect for Life went into effect in 2011, which sets forth policies to help prevent suicides.
  4. Youth Unemployment: The country’s economy is strong, but it is slowly declining. With such large companies like Samsung, LG and Hyundai in South Korea, many smaller businesses are having trouble cementing themselves into Korean society. These larger companies then offer less than ideal contracts to smaller companies who must accept them or risk going out of business. This is disabling young people’s ability to find jobs with a smaller market of opportunities. More than 11 percent of young people between the ages of 15 and 29 are unable to find jobs. President Moon Jae-in promises to combat the unemployment of young people during his presidency.
  5. Universal Healthcare: South Korea has adopted an affordable, universal healthcare system. It was first introduced in 1989. As mentioned above, this may be a key factor in the increase in life expectancy in South Korea. The country also created plans to help its citizens treat certain forms of dementia. It is projected that the percentage of South Koreans age 65 or older will increase to 40 percent by the year 2060.
  6. Plans to Boost the Economy: South Korea has decreased its infrastructure spending, but is increasing its minimum wage. President Moon has planned to drastically increase South Korea’s spending budget by around $420 billion in 2019. The goal is to increase the number of jobs available and to raise the minimum wage; however, these programs will also create budget cuts for infrastructure spending.
  7. Climate Change: The country is taking action on climate change. In an effort to learn more about climate change, the Korean National Institute of Environmental Research began working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other organizations in 2016. These organizations have been focusing on monitoring air quality throughout East Asia. Citizens of South Korea are affected by smog and concentrations of particulate matter that lead to respiratory illnesses. South Korean air is twice as polluted as some other countries.
  8. Low Violence Rates: South Korea has low rates of terrorism and violence. South Koreans have great respect for the rule of law, according to data from the World Bank. Citizens also have a great deal of respect for the courts and rules of society. It is possible that the impeachment of former President Park Geun-Hye in 2017 also increased confidence in the South Korean legal system.
  9. Expensive Housing: The already expensive housing prices in South Korea are increasing even more. The nation’s capital, Seoul, is the most expensive city to live in South Korea. It’s twice as expensive to live there than anywhere else in the country. During the past year, housing prices have risen 23 percent in Seoul and 12.5 percent outside of the city. To encourage young people to live in the city, the government offered 70,000 homes to newlyweds in December 2018.
  10. Long Work Weeks: South Koreans work more than the majority of other countries. In 2018, South Korea changed the maximum limit that employees may work from 68 hours to 52 per week. This change was put into effect to improve health conditions and keep laborers from becoming overworked. This bill limited the work week of South Koreans to 40 hours per week with 12 hours of optional overtime at 50 to 100 percent normal pay rate. As the last fact on this list of top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea, it shows South Korea is prioritizing mental health and the well-being of its citizens.

South Korean has made great advancements in the quality of living conditions, but there is still room for improvement. Many younger Koreans believe that President Moon’s policies will lead to more benefits and a fairer society. These top 10 facts about living conditions in South Korea outline a promising future, but making mental health and financial stability a priority is necessary for the country’s citizens.

Jodie Ann Filenius

Photo: Flickr

Stressed and Depressed: Mental Health in South Korea
In South Korea, there is no such thing as a mental health problem. The national attitude concerning mental illness is not looked at as something that could and should be openly discussed. South Korea has always been advanced in its work ethic and technology breakthroughs. South Koreans are known to put in very long hours at the office as well as being very competitive, not to mention the amount of pressure put on students to do well in school.

However, the whole situation in the country, including educational and working pressure, has influenced the people and mental health in South Korea. According to the OECD data, South Korea has the second largest suicide rate in the world. According to government statistics, one in four South Koreans struggles with a mental health disorder at least once throughout their life. Sadly, the statistics also show that only one in 10 people will go seek some kind of professional help.

Old World Values

South Korean values traditionally center around Buddhism. These values accentuate modesty and family in the first place. Personal concerns are not the top priority to the family unit. “Talking openly about emotional problems is still taboo,” said Dr. Kim Hyong-soo, a psychologist and professor at Chosun University in Kwangju. South Koreans are stressed, depressed and are avoiding therapy at alarming rates. The South Korean thought process dates back to the old days where it was expected from a person to just grin and bear with the problems. This approach is active even today as South Koreans fear they will be stigmatized if they ask for help. Dr. Kim believes that eighty to 90 percent of the suicides in South Korea happens due to depression.

Bringing Awareness to the Problem

The South Korean government introduced the National Youth Healing Center under the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family in 2012. The program finds willing participants who suffer from mental health issues and have them participate in four-month treatment programs. The South Korean government also announced that $48.2 billion will be allocated for suicide prevention and mental health. This number is an increase of 7.7 percent from earlier years.

The Youth Health Programme works with the Korean Association for Suicide Protection. This particular nongovernmental organization encourages the education of “gatekeepers”, people who are meant to help identify citizens at-risk within their community. The Youth Health Programme helps to encourage safe talk that is also a training program that includes four stages: talk, ask, listen and keep safe. This program was aimed at younger people who could hopefully use these techniques to speak with their friends openly if they see that they are struggling.

Child Fund Korea

In 2017, Child Fund Korea sponsored 760,805 children. Child Fund Korea is the leading organization in South Korea for helping children in need. Its main goal is to provide each child with a healthy living environment, whether that is physically or mentally. Child Fund Korea understands that by starting young they may be able to help change the thought process on mental health in South Korea and persuade people to ask for help when in need.

Today, more and more South Koreans are realizing they need to figure out a way to deter stress from their life. As a result, South Korea holds the highest rates of cancer survivals while also having the ninth lowest obesity rate in the world. Yet, South Koreans are still stressing themselves to death. Thankfully, the South Korean government is understanding the need to educate its citizens in personal self-care. The government target is to reduce the suicide rate in the next five years from the current 26.5 per 100,000 people to 17, which is the current suicide rate in Japan. Success can only start when the stigma of mental health in South Korea and stress is recognized. Only then, the country and its people can move forward in full capacity.

Jennifer O’Brien

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in South Korea
South Korea is home to beautiful great plains, cherry blossom trees and charming architecture of centuries worth of history and many other awe-inspiring attractions.

Along with its rich cultural heritage, the average life expectancy in South Korea is rising rapidly due to advanced medical and technological innovation.

This list of 10 facts about life expectancy in South Korea articulates the importance of the nation’s universal health care system and how it contributes to the rising impoverished elderly population and the rapidly increasing average life expectancy.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in South Korea

  1. The National Institute of Biomedical Information conducted a study that researched the cause of life expectancy in South Korea increasing over the past few decades. The study compared life table data and mortality statistics to observe the age and cause-specific contributions to life expectancy. It concluded that the rapid increase of life expectancy in South Korea can be attributed to the reductions in infant mortality rate, cardiovascular diseases (especially stroke and hypertension diseases), stomach cancer, liver cancer and tuberculosis through the advancement of medicine and technology.
  2. With life expectancy increasing at a rapid rate, the quality of life also contributes to its growth. South Korea achieved a universal health care plan called the National Health Insurance Program that allows medical aid to anyone who needs it without worrying about cost. In 2010, all private insurance companies were integrated into the National Health Insurance Program.
  3. Funding for the National Health Insurance Program comes from contributions, government subsidies and tobacco surcharges. Employee insured individuals are required to contribute 5 percent of their salary. Self-employed individuals’ contributions are based on their level of income. The contributions calculations take into account gender, age, motor vehicle and private property of an individual. Those living on islands or remote areas have reduced contribution percentages.
  4. The Medical Aid Program covers about 3.7 percent of the South Korean population. It was established in 1979 for low-income households and provides paid expenses for those who could not afford high medical costs. After 2004, the program expanded to cover rare and chronic disease and those under the age of 18. It is jointly funded by the local and federal government, with the local government choosing beneficiaries based on a set of criteria set forth by the South Korean Ministry.
  5. Nongovernment organizations such as the Federation of Evicted People of Seoul (FEPS), the Federation of National Street Vendors (FNSV), the Korean Coalition for Housing Rights (KCHR), the Korea Centre for City and Environment Research (KOCER) and the Korea National Association of the Urban Poor focus attention on low-income areas and housing difficulties. They aim to secure housing of tenants and demand that the government stops evicting residents from their homes without offering proper compensation. These organizations also take action in the form of public demonstrations in front of government buildings, lectures with different approaches to solving housing crises and host anti-eviction movements.
  6. An international team of scientists in the summer of 2017 predicted that by 2030, the life expectancy of women and men in South Korea on average would rise up to 90 and 83, respectively. However, according to the OECD, older adults over the age of 65 still live in poverty. A survey concluded that 48.6 percent of the elderly were in poverty, the highest level of the 36 OECD countries.
  7. Elders who live in poverty are not in absolute poverty, but relative poverty. They live below 50 percent of the South Korea median income. With access to universal health care and free treatment, they are able to live longer due to easily accessible medical intervention.
  8. With the ideals of Confucianism fading away, the traditions of filial piety disappear along with it. Many elders refuse financial support from their children because they do not want to burden them. Those over 65 with social security often live on most of their meager monthly pension.
  9. Almost a quarter of the impoverished elderly live in isolation and many commit suicide in fear of being a burden to their family. This results in high levels of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. South Korea has the 10th highest rate of suicide in the world and elderly suicide has risen from 34 per 100,000 people in 2000 to 72 per 100,000 people in 2010.
  10. Facilities such as the Buddhist temple that offers free lunches in Tapgol Park in Seoul serve about 140 people a day. The economy and market strain possibility of elders finding work, resulting in them begging for food or waiting in long lines in facilities such as the one in Tagpol Park. Some elders will work past the retirement age in order to live with basic necessities such as food and water because monthly pension plans are not sustainable enough.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in South Korea show that the majority of the impoverished people in the country are from the elderly community.

Despite the fact that the elderly live on low pension wages in poor living conditions, they also receive universal health care that covers medical expenses.

The list above highlights how the universal health care system in South Korea affects growing impoverished, elderly population and how does it increase the life expectancy and improves living conditions in the country.

– Aria Ma
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in South Korea South Korea is largely considered among the most advanced and financially secure countries in the world.

It was ranked among the most innovative countries in 2015 and is known for dramatically transforming itself within the span of a generation.

Once known as a nation recovering from war with a fragile, precariously positioned economy, South Korea now enjoys widespread prosperity.

Although not all South Koreans enjoy equally in the country’s development, there are measures in place to work towards minimizing hunger, and South Korea is notable for its efforts in this area. In the text below, top 10 facts regarding hunger in South Korea are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in South Korea

  1. South Korea ranks 25th on the Global Food Security Index. This suggests it is among the most secure countries in the world when it comes to securing food for its population, and the majority of people in the country are not in danger of starvation.
  2. South Korea has among the lowest levels of stunting and other starvation based disorders in the world. Percentage of the prevalence of moderate and severe stunting is at 3 percent.
  3. The elderly, migrant workers and refugees are the demographic groups that are most likely to suffer from hunger in South Korea. These groups are most likely to be targeted by employment discrimination. In the case of the elderly, starvation may occur because of lack of familial or community support after retirement. These populations are an anomaly in an otherwise wealthy nation.
  4. According to a Yale study, South Korea has taken steps to reduce food waste by roughly 300 tonnes per day. Trial districts in Seoul have succeeded in reducing food waste by 30 percent in households and by 40 percent in restaurants. This has been beneficial in reducing hunger and in maximizing efficient use of resources.
  5. One major step towards food security in South Korea was achieving rice self-sufficiency. South Korea cultivated rice as a domestic product that would feed its people while also being a successful export to bolster its economy. It reached rice self-sufficiency in the 1970s.
  6. Although South Korea applied protectionist policies to its domestic rice and livestock industries, it also allowed international trade for products it did not cultivate at high rates, such as flour-based goods. This system of domestic development with openings for foreign imports allowed South Korea to grow as an economy while also sufficiently and effectively feeding the country’s population.
  7. South Korea has committed to contribute $20 million to the World Food Programme in an effort to end world hunger. This will allow funding for various food security programs around the world over a five year period.
  8. South Korea is investing in vertical farming to further promote food security. This process involves creating farms that will be two or three stories high, with the possibility of aiming higher as agricultural techniques advance. This investment allows for efficient food production at faster rates.
  9. South Korea has gone from one of the largest recipients of food security aid to one of the largest contributor to the cause. In many ways, it represents a success story of a country that formerly received aid. The aid funneled towards South Korea not only improved the lives of the country’s citizens but also invigorated its contributions in ensuring food security around the world in the future.
  10. Food banks are also successful and frequently utilized in South Korea. Many of them are community-based initiatives that are undertaken to combat hunger among underprivileged South Koreans.

Despite a few challenges, South Korea has fairly high food security and continues to embark on new projects to feed its population. Food security is among its primary concerns, and both government and community-based initiatives exist to prevent possible problems regarding this issue.

South Korea can serve as a model for struggling nations aiming to achieve food security, and also as a model for wealthy nations in terms of providing food security aid.

– Isha Madan
Photo: Flickr

North Korea poverty
Despite constant attempts by the North Korean government to delegitimize critics of the country’s severe living conditions and human rights violations, the dire status of its economy is one of the main causes of the consequent rise of North Korea poverty. Such steep levels of economic discomfort and overall hardship in everyday living stems from two main factors, namely the closeness of North Korean economy, and its strict and draconian political system.

A Closer Look

In a country where one in four children suffer from malnutrition, and episodes of defector citizens with parasites living in their stomach are reported, a closer look to the various economic sectors, industries and social relations can be very revealing. In terms of economic freedom, North Korea has been ranked 180th by the Heritage Foundation in 2018, preceded by Venezuela and followed by no one, effectively making it the least economically free country on the planet.

Moreover, there’s no detectable tax system since the government owns and directs virtually every aspect of the economy. As a result, a massive share of the GDP is in fact produced by the same entity that is supposed to tax it.

Regulatory pressure is also a crucial factor that contributes to increase North Korea poverty by tightening up the economy, which grew at an alarmingly slow rate in 2013 (1.1 percent) and in 2014 (1 percent), and decreased in 2015 (-1.1 percent).

Regulations and Shortages

Since private enterprise is virtually non-existent, strict regulations against any resemblance of a private sector are in place, a move thus rendering starting and managing a business practically impossible. The combination of all these factors makes North Korea very reluctant to produce wealth and increase its living standards, especially with the presence of continuous restrictions in international trade and economic sanctions.

Shortage of food and energy need to be compensated by international parties such as China, to which North Korea has grown increasingly more dependent over the last few years. However, a report from the North Korean Economic Watch observed that rice prices, contrarily to what one might have anticipated, have been remarkably stable over the past year.

With economic sanctions in place, it is well conceivable to expect a significant rise in inflation, especially in an overall and continuously poor economy such as that of North Korea.

Such phenomena led experts to believe that the rise of black markets might be the missing link behind such oddities; this would have reinforced, though, the simple yet harsh truth that the extremely high rate of North Korea poverty is a direct result of an economy that simply isn’t strong enough to provide basic and minimal items such as rice to its citizens and their standards of living.

New Rules

All of these instances occur while the government allocates a large amount of its attention and financial resources to the military and missile and nuclear development. This focus leaves primary industries such as agriculture on their own in addition to the high poverty rate and child malnutrition that North Koreans have to face every day.

Since South Korea officially withdrew its provision of farming fertilizers in 2008, the government started a program that delineates farmers are to use their own feces as fertilizers since livestock has became scarce.

Crop failure is also exacerbated by frequent inclement weather, lack of arable land and poor quality of the soil. Between these hardships and the use of human feces as fertilizer, health hazards have increased to the levels of large parasites growing in people’s intestines as a result of poor health.

The hope is that a significant increase of awareness and improved political and anti-poverty policies will help alleviate the seemingly perennial hardship that North Korean citizens have come to experience as normal.

– Luca Di Fabio

Photo: Flickr

water quality in south koreaOver the past several decades, water quality in South Korea has remained poor due to poorly-operated water management services and sewage systems. It was not until the 1970s that the Korean government made headway in improving its water services, with help from the World Bank and other nations.

Perceptions Today

According to The Korea Herald, in 2013, the Environmental Ministry conducted a survey of 12,000 South Koreans, and only 10 percent responded that they drank tap water, whether boiled or not. Meanwhile, 55 percent said they only drank tap water after boiling it.

This is despite experts’ opinions that Korean tap water is some of the best in the world. A 2003 United Nations report ranked water quality in South Korea as the eighth highest in the world, ahead of that in the United States (twelfth highest). Incidentally, in 2013, 82 percent of Americans surveyed indicated that they drank tap water.

Why the Disconnect?

Koreans, at least as of 2013, seem to be living in the past on this issue. According to The Korea Herald, 30 percent of those surveyed cited concerns about old water tanks and pipes for their wariness toward tap water, and 28 percent were worried about reservoir sanitation.

Indeed, those were once major issues. The World Bank reports that, in Korea, in “the late 1980s, accelerated urbanization took its toll, and surface and underground water bodies became polluted.”

Then, in the 1990s, the chemical phenol was leaked into the water supply, which caused severe illness to those who drank it. Meanwhile, several reported cases of ‘red water’ increased awareness of aging, rusting underground pipes.

But today, the same concerns are nonissues. Korea’s water and wastewater service are very nearly universal. The Korean government continually monitors tap water quality against a minimum of 59 criteria, including pH levels. Old public pipes have been replaced with new, rust-proof ones, and city governments have offered subsidies for people who want to replace pipes in their private residences.

The water is clean, say the experts. Pain can leave muscle memory, but in time even that fades. If Koreans continue to come together to demand only the highest standards from those they charge with regulating their water systems, they should have nothing to worry about when it comes to drinking tap water.

Chuck Hasenauer

Photo: Flickr

Hagwons in South Korea

In an interview with BBC news, 16-year-old Hye-Min Park explains that her studious efforts are all in the name of achieving her dreams of becoming an elementary school teacher. Attending hagwons in South Korea is a part of that journey.

A day in the life of a South Korean Student

Park leaves her home for school at 7:30 a.m. which she attends until 4:00 p.m. She returns home for a quick bite, leaving again for private lessons at her hagwon from 6:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

After her hagwon lessons conclude, she heads back to school for a study session until 11 p.m. Once she gets home, she continues studying until 2 a.m. Her alarm is set for 6:30 a.m. to wake up later that morning to do it all over again.

Despite seeming like a long and intensive day, Park explains that she is able to forget her hardships when she sees her efforts pay off in the form of good marks at school.

What is a hagwon?

Hagwons are for-profit private institutions throughout South Korea that students often attend in substitution of public kindergarten or preschool, as an after-school program and sometimes both.

Some have nick-named these institutions “crammers” as hagwons in South Korea typically teach a fast-paced curriculum in various subjects including English grammar, mathematics, fine arts and music.

Nearly 100,000 hagwons can be found throughout the country, and 95 percent of students have taken lessons from these institutions by the time they graduate high school.

The Cost

South Korean parents spent over $15 billion, or 18 trillion Korean Won, on private education annually. That’s more than triple the average Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) country’s expenditure on private education, and more than anywhere else in the world.

The hagwon structure may be evolving the educational system, acting as a market in which supply and demand rule all.

Three-quarters of Korean students prefer their hagwon lessons to their day school classes. Sohn Kwang Kyun, a math teacher at Sky Education (a top-grossing hagwon), thinks this is because hagwons are consumer oriented. Hagwon lessons match students’ abilities with the appropriate lessons and pace.

Choi Jung Yoon is also a teacher at Sky Ed. Yoon believes that the preference towards hagwons is also because they are elective; because students elect to take them, they are more engaged.

But how optional are they? The importance of gaining admission into top universities fuels the demand for supplementary lessons from private institutions like hagwons. Further, increasing competition may necessitate hagwon attendance.

The price of hagwons may come at another cost: a loss of interest and motivation in the formal education system and increased stress.

Self-harm was the number one cause of premature death in 2016. Self-harm claims approximately 900 lives annually and continues to be the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults under 30. Depression and anxiety disorders rank fourth and ninth, respectively, for health problems causing the most disability.

Hagwons in South Korea are designed to enhance students’ cognitive abilities and contribute to South Korea‘s admirable reputation of educational devotion. However, the added responsibility may also add pressure on Korean students and compromise their mental health.

Sloan Bousselaire

Photo: Flickr