Solving Hunger in South Korea, From Its Own Borders to the International CommunitySouth Korea remains one of the most technologically and economically developed countries. Standing as the number one most educated country and the 14th largest economy, South Korea has a small rate of undernourishment and relatively low levels of poverty. The poverty rate in South Korea is 13% for the working-age population and 44% for the elderly, ages 66 and older. Additionally, the rate of hunger in South Korea is relatively low. As of 2019, South Korea ranks 29 on the Global Food Security Index and only 2.5% of South Korea is undernourished. Stunting in South Korea, which refers to a child who is too short for their age as a result of chronic malnutrition, is 3%. These low rates of undernourishment and stunting are due to the high presence and quality of South Korea’s Food Safety Net Programs.

Innovate Ways to Battling Hunger

South Korea has implemented excellent programs and initiatives for poverty and hunger-reduction. The South Korean government worked to alleviate hunger among the elderly by offering a retirement program where elderly individuals receive about $200 a month. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety in South Korea also established a food safety management system to provide safer and healthier food. Foods that are made domestically go through a three-step process of manufacturing, distribution and consumption.

During the manufacturing stage, the business operator must submit a food and item report. Inspections are then conducted to ensure the safety of the products. In the distribution stage, food products are collected and inspected further to strengthen the safety of food distribution. The food is also traced through a system so that all distribution routes are tracked. Lastly, the program ensures that in the consumption stage, all false or over-exaggerated advertisements are monitored thoroughly and food standards are met. This three-step program is essential to ensure the food safety and nutritional needs are met.

Addressing Food Waste and Building Rice Self-Sufficiency

Today, the world produces enough food to sustain every single individual, but almost a third of all food produced every year never reaches consumption due to excessive food waste. To tackle this problem and maximize the efficiency of food distribution, South Korea has implemented food waste programs that recycle more than 95% of its food waste. Leftover food in major cities like Seoul is collected from residences, hotels and restaurants and deposited in sorting facilities. The food is then crushed and dried and used as fertilizer, animal feed and even used for generating electricity. This program has reduced food waste in districts by 30% and in restaurants by 40%.

One of the biggest contributions to hunger reduction in South Korea is the system of rice self-sufficiency, where rice consumption became a matter of “national duty.” In the late 1970s, South Korea grew self-sufficient in rice for the first time. Local consumers were prompted to buy local Korean produce through food campaigns that insisted on the consumption of rice as an important national responsibility. As a result of local rice production and consumption, the average rural income grew higher than the average urban income and South Korea became self-sufficient in its most essential food commodity: rice. This rice self-sufficiency contributed tremendously to food security in South Korea.

Helping Others

South Korea has come a long way since the Japanese colonization of Korea and the Korean War. The country has found innovative ways to strengthen its economy, reduce its poverty and establish food security and food safety net programs. These innovative programs and the resulting low rates of hunger have inspired the international community to take note of South Korea’s achievements and follow its lead. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), for instance, has joined forces with South Korea to encourage and strengthen its Zero-Hunger efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. South Korea has been working with FAO to help drought-stricken farmers in Afghanistan as well as provide training in rice production for farming communities in West Africa. In June of 2019, South Korea also responded to the severe food shortages afflicting 40% of North Korea by distributing $8 million in food aid to North Korea.

Today, the vast influence that South Korea has on the international community is clear. Not only did they create new critical ways to solve important issues such as poverty, hunger and food waste in their own country, but they also shared these strategies with other countries. South Korea continues to provide aid and assistance to countries like Afghanistan and communities in West Africa while ensuring that hunger in South Korea is managed.

—Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

South Korea’s Foreign Aid
South Korea, or the Republic of Korea officially, is stepping forward as a global leader in delivering foreign aid. During the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korea’s foreign aid will amount to $400 million USD donated to programs dedicated to improving health in developing countries, according to South Korea’s fiscal chief Moon Jae-In in April 2020. In 2017, he was the chief of staff to President Roh Moo-hyun. The country has also enacted foreign aid by pledging to extend the due dates of international loans and payments.

Where South Korea’s Foreign Aid is Going

South Korea’s foreign aid has helped South Korea emerge as a world leader, and especially since the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) recruited it. Another thing that has helped South Korea emerge as a world leader was its swift detection, containment and treatment of COVID-19. South Korea lowered the number of cases in the county to 61 cases on October 24, 2020 – all without imposing a full lockdown.

In Tanzania, South Korean foreign aid is implementing a project to empower rural women. It will facilitate this project from 2020 to 2023, with $5 million USD. Agricultural facilities will undergo construction, and female farmers will receive marketing and technical education. This will improve women’s access to land. South Korea will also establish a center for victims of gender-based violence.

South Korea has undergone a radical transformation. It has gone from being a recipient to a significant donor of international aid. In the 1960s, South Korea received over $1,400 million USD in foreign aid. Decades later, in 1987, South Korea adopted democracy, and institutions received new designs to better serve the interests of the public. In 1987, it donated $25 million in foreign aid, but this does not include aid to North Korea, or else this amount would be far larger. This change was due to South Korea’s official adoption of democracy in 1987 when June demonstrations forced the government to announce democratic reforms. A free market allowed for competition, and therefore, innovation to take place, thus sustaining the economy and bolstering the GDP per capita, from $2,835 USD in 1986 to $13,403 USD in 1996.

South Korea as an ODA Donor

In 1987, South Korea became a donor for official development assistance (ODA). ODA is government aid to encourage the economic development of developing countries. In 1987, South Korea’s foreign aid totaled $25 million. Contributions steadily increased, with yearly percentage increases ranging from 30% to 79% in the next 20 years. It continues to flourish and thrive as an emerging significant country in global aid.

South Korea and the OECD

South Korea became a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) prestigious Development Assistance Committee (DAC) in 2010. The OECD is an international group of the biggest providers of assistance towards developing countries and the DAC is a forum to discuss issues of international aid focused on inclusive and sustainable growth.

In 2011, one year after becoming a member of DAC, South Korean president Lee Myung-bak stated that South Korea intends to give more aid to the world than what it has ever taken. To exemplify this promise, in 2015, Korea partnered with USAID to commit $5 million to the Ethiopian government to encourage its efforts to mitigate child and maternal death there. It mainly focused on heightening the numbers of healthy mothers and successful births, giving more access to application and acceptance of family planning, and increasing healthy birth rates.

South Korea also pledged in July 2020 to give $4 million in humanitarian assistance to countries in East Africa that experienced locust swarms, resulting in food crises for over 25 million people. The World Bank recommended that social and productive safety-net programs – a subset of social protection mechanisms – be instilled to bolster food and nutrition security. Safety nets include cash, social pensions, public works and school meal programs.

South Korea’s growth in foreign aid increased significantly after the county adopted democracy, and it became a member of the OECD. It is stepping forward as a global leader in delivering foreign assistance, as proven by its inclusion into the DAC. It is combating issues such as maternal deaths in Ethiopia and food scarcity in the East African region due to food scarcity caused by locusts.

– Madeline Drayna
Photo: Unsplash

Philanthropy in South KoreaThe Republic of South Korea carries one of the most uplifting stories of increased education and economic improvement. South Korea faces poverty among the elderly and an education gap between the rich and poor. Despite that, the country has launched effective policies for poverty reduction. These efforts expand beyond the scope of just South Korea. This article will cover advancements in national poverty reduction. It will focus on South Korea’s global poverty reduction and philanthropy efforts through organizations such as World Friends Korea and the Korean International Cooperation Agency.

Poverty in South Korea

South Korea has evolved tremendously in terms of poverty reduction and economic improvement. In 1945, around the end of the Japanese colonization, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. In the 1950s, after the Korean war, 80% of the urban population was below the poverty line. Today, South Korea’s literacy rate is 96% and its poverty rate is close to 14%. This decrease in poverty and illiteracy is largely due to extensive education policies and NGOs within Korea.

The Beautiful Foundation

In the late 1980s, democracy consolidated in South Korea. Various NGOs promoted humanitarian principles and rights, create a flow of social-political interactions and offer a voice to citizens. In 2002, estimates determined that there were 60,000 nonprofits in South Korea. While many international NGOs such as UNICEF, the Red Cross, UNDP and Planned Parenthood have had chapters and projects in South Korea, there are plenty of organizations in the nonprofit sector native to Korea. Established in 1999, Beautiful Foundation is one of the largest Korean nonprofits.

The Beautiful Foundation dedicates itself to creating an impartial society where people practice sharing by spreading wealth across society. The organization has had a great influence on philanthropy in South Korea. The 1% Sharing initiative, for example, encourages all Koreans to contribute 1% of their salary or income to any campaign or cause they believe in. These contributions are even open to individuals that do not live in Korea. The Beautiful Foundation has used these donations for disaster relief, child hunger and even social issues.

Philanthropy within Corporate Korea

South Korean corporations represent almost 40% of Korean philanthropy while the remaining 60% comes from individuals’ charity. Korean corporations such as Samsung have used social media to promote and inspire others to give through online sites. Samsung has also launched campaigns such as Samsung Hope for Children which helps children access education and medical treatment through donations of products and financial assistance.

Hyundai, another large corporation in South Korea, has launched campaigns such as the Hope on Wheels program, which helps children with cancer. Since it began its philanthropic efforts, Hyundai has given $72 million to pediatric research.

Government Role in NGOs and Philanthropy

Although these organizations are non-governmental, the government still plays a significant role. Most NGOs receive government grants. Additionally, certain government factions or ministries, such as the Korean Department of Health and Welfare, host annual conferences to bring organization leaders, government officials, corporate workers and academic scholars to discuss further development and new philanthropic strategies and ideas.

Many NGOs are also policy-oriented and must meet with government officials to achieve their goals. NGOs can campaign for a range of socio-economic issues such as income disparity and economic inequality. For instance, the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice (CCEJ), which is the oldest NGO in Korean history to address social welfare issues, persuaded the Korean administration in the 1990s to change housing eviction policies. It also lobbied for the construction of more homes which the government agreed to.

South Korea Gives Back to the World

South Korea has evolved from a country receiving international aid, to a flourishing economy ready to give back. The country is the world’s 12th largest economy and began its international philanthropy in the 1990s. The Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), established in 1991, distributes aid to promote economic and social development in poorer countries. Worlds Friends Korea, which is similar to the U.S. Peace Corps, has worked with KOICA to reduce poverty and provide opportunities for growth. Since 1990, World Friends Korea has sent around 50,000 volunteers and has been active in 96 countries.

South Korea has also been involved in security and reconstruction efforts in developing countries such as Afghanistan. In 2010, the Korean Province Reconstruction Team (PRT) worked to strengthen local governments, administrative competence and productivity, as well as provide support for agriculture, education and medical services in the Parwan Province.

South Korea pulled itself out of poverty through strict education policies, massive technological and economic advancements and an abundance of support from NGOs. After seeing poverty worldwide, the people of Korea honed in on the values of sharing and the long tradition of giving. South Korean philanthropy was born out of “self-actualization” and the desire to accept and help others. From giving to its own people to giving worldwide, from corporate philanthropy and NGOs to government-oriented organizations, South Korea has truly encompassed philanthropy.

– Nada Abuasi
Photo: Unsplash

KPOP
BTS, also known as Bangtan Boys, is a Korean boy band consisting of 7 members. Their style of music, popularly known as KPOP, or Korean Pop music has taken off. Debuting in 2013, BTS immediately gained a faithful and dedicated fanbase that they call ARMY. As BTS grew in popularity, their acts of charity became more frequent. With their popularity and influence,  ARMY soon followed in the KPOP group’s philanthropic footsteps.

Hope Delivery Food Bank

In South Korea, nearly 50% of the elderly population is living in poverty. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development reports that in 2015, 45.7% of South Koreans over the age of 65 lived in poverty. There is also a large number of children lacking necessities. Poverty and Social Exclusion reported that 13.5% of children in South Korea are living in poverty. To combat these numbers and give back to the community, BTS teamed up with Hope Delivery — a program under Love Food Bank that works to help the elderly and children in poverty by delivering food for them.

Jimin’s Busan School Donation

In April 2019, it was revealed that Jimin, a member of BTS, made a large donation to Busan’s office of education. Notably, the donation of 100 million won equates to about $84,000. Jimin has also made other generous donations. For example, he also donated to his alma mater, Busan High School of Arts, in February 2020. With his donation, he was able to provide 1,200 students with new desks and chairs.

Jin’s UNICEF Honors Club

In 2019, it was announced by UNICEF Korea that Jin became a member of UNICEF Honors Club. Jin had become a member by donating more than 100 million won. He had begun secretly donating in May 2018 and revealed he became a member of the UNICEF Honors Club to encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

Suga’s Hope Bridge Korea Disaster Relief Association

To fight the spread of COVID-19, Suga decided to donate 100 million won to the Hope Bridge Korea Disaster Relief Association. Suga initiated this donation after the cancellation of BTS’s tour, Map of the Soul. Many fans and would-be concert goers drew inspiration from Suga’s donation and followed suit. The outpour of donations from ARMY accumulated about 400 million won over a weekend in March 2020. Fans’ total donation amount may be much higher since not every donation went under BTS or ARMY.

J-Hope’s ChildFund Korea’s Green Noble Club

During August 2020, it was revealed that J-Hope, a member of ChildFund Korea’s Green Noble Club, donated 100 million won. The donation helped vulnerable children, especially those who are facing financial insecurities due to COVID-19. McKinsey & Company conducted a report revolving around the financial impact of COVID-19 on Asian countries. When focusing on the decrease in income in households, the report reveals that South Koreans have great concern. With this level of concern, J-Hope’s donation is likely to alleviate the stress among households.

ARMY Singapore Foodbank Charity

In honor of BTS’s 6th anniversary, fans have come together to do acts of charity. A Twitter handle by the name @btsborahaeteam had revealed on March 6, 2019, that a donation project has been formed. The purpose of the donation was to raise funds through Food Bank SG and distribute it to different charities and food kitchens in Singapore. On June 7, 2019, the fundraiser came to an end and more than $2,000 was raised. With the money raised, people put together 136 bundles of food and distributed it in Bedok North. In the name of KPOP and BTS, ARMY has come together and made a significant, financial impact.

Ashleigh Jimenez
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Rights in South Korea
Historically, women’s rights in South Korea have had limitations and have handicapped the country’s progression. In all realms of society – socially, politically, economically and culturally – women have ranked lower and had fewer rights than their male counterparts. However, there are significant advancements in improving the status of women in South Korea. Specifically, efforts in closing the country’s gender gap could allow for the economy to flourish, and in return, lower overall poverty rates.

Gender Inequality in South Korea

Traditionally, South Korea previously used Confucianism to rule its moral codes and societal structure. For women, these codes determined that they should be obedient to the men in their lives – fathers, husbands and sons. Until the 21st century, men had the title of the head of the household for their families, which reinforced the deep inequality between South Korean men and women. For women, the continuation of familial lines was the primary societal expectation. These historical-cultural expectations set precedence regarding women’s rights in South Korea in modern times.

In 2005, South Korea’s Constitutional Court made the decision to officially retire the tradition of “hoju,” which placed the man at the head of the household. The abolishment of this system had intentions of uplifting South Korean women by improving their daily lives and shows the country heading towards a more inclusive society. In modern-day South Korea, men and women now have equal rights, and furthermore, female employment rates have risen to over 52% since 2018. These significant improvements in women’s rights in South Korea have the potential to create a future with a flourishing economy.

Despite best efforts, South Korea still continues to rank towards the bottom for economic opportunities for women. South Korea ranks at 115 for the country’s economic gender gap, ranks at 124 for economic participation and female opportunity and has the largest pay gap among OECD countries. In addition, South Korean’s working population has started declining and expectations have determined that birthrates will begin to decrease by 2028. A simple, straightforward solution to these issues would be a higher integration of women in the workplace. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an increase in female labor would also increase South Korea’s GDP by 7%, a substantial amount. So, the question is, what is South Korea doing to support female involvement in the workplace?

Solutions

In a 2015 interview, Kim Hee-Jung, the minister of gender equality and family, discussed the ways South Korea is attempting to close its gender gap. Kim Hee-Jung first corrected a common misconception that people have in regard to increasing women’s opportunities by stating an increase in opportunities for women does not decrease men’s opportunities. She proved her point by stating that “the statistics show that in OECD countries with high rates of female economic participation, birthrates and economic growth rates tend also to be higher.” Furthermore, there are policies to aid in creating a sustainable work-life balance for both South Korean men and women. For example, the government initiated the “two-track support for paternity leave,” where men will receive their entire month’s salary if they decide to take paternity leave after their wives have. Kim Hee-Jung ended the interview on a promising note for the future of female power in South Korea’s economy.

Overall, women’s rights in South Korea have greatly improved in this past century. Although South Korea began by placing social expectations and limitations on its women, it has made great efforts in changing these traditional roles. For the South Korean economy to truly thrive, others must continue to recognize and reduce inequality in the workplace. With this acknowledgment, South Korea has the ability to uplift its women in order to enhance its entire economy.

– Bolorzul Dorjsuren
Photo: Flickr

Education in South Korea
After the Korean War, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world with a GDP per capita of $79. Today, it is home to many innovative technology companies and has a GDP of $1.619 trillion. This massive progress is largely due to the high standards of education in South Korea. With a strong cultural emphasis on education, the country was able to develop a flourishing economy and facilitate poverty reduction.

The Principles of Education

Education has always been important for Koreans. In the 18th century Korea, neo-Confucianist ideals and a stringent class system framed the Korean social order. Many considered education essential to slowly eliminate social stratification and offer equal opportunities. In fact, King Sejong the Great, the fourth king of the Joseon dynasty, created the Korean alphabet Hangul for that specific purpose. He wanted all of his people to be able to read and write, not just those of higher social class.

During the Japanese colonization of Korea, which lasted from 1910 until 1945, Japanese became the official language and Hangul was completely banned. Despite Japan’s imposed restraints on potential educational opportunities for Koreans during this time, the desire for education persisted. It was so tremendous that after Korea gained independence, the Korean people overwhelmingly demanded more opportunities for education. It evolved into a standard of economic and social mobility, or the fairest way to move up the socio-economic ladder. The industrialization process began through this principle, subsequently making education essential for employment.

South Korea’s Rise to the Top

In 1945, around the end of Japanese colonization, South Korea’s literacy rate was 22%, among the lowest in the world. To eradicate illiteracy, South Korea launched campaigns that aimed to educate those who did not have primary education. Additionally, in the 1950s, the government made elementary school obligatory by law. As a result, South Korea’s literacy rate rose to 96% by 1958.

The policies used to increase literacy rates also contributed to the rise in post-secondary education. South Korea ranks as the number one most educated country, where almost 70% of individuals between the ages of 25 and 34 have completed college, university or any other form of higher education.

Along with education in South Korea, the country’s economy transformed tremendously. Many consider South Korea’s economy to the most innovative economy regarding technology and has ranked number one in innovation for several years, raising its GDP to $1.619 trillion. Its ratio of research and development program spending to GDP is the highest in the world. South Korea has one of the most intricate and interconnected economies, leading in exports of information and communications technology as well as automobiles. It is also the first country to introduce 5G internet services for mobile carriers.

Education, Labor and Technology

The South Korean government believed that economic development on a national scale required high learning abilities and cognitive skills. By investing in education, students would develop skills and knowledge that would help in becoming excellent workers. The economy then flourishes and begins to invest back into education. The government also made sure to provide vocational or technical training which, alongside education in South Korea, has contributed to the low unemployment of 3.7%.

The emphasis on education in South Korea extends beyond national economic improvement. Technological companies such as Samsung encourage corporate-academic collaborations with universities like Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul and the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon where they collaborate on research in electrochemistry and the development of new energy sources. Samsung has also provided technology to classrooms in an attempt to reduce the education gap.

Reduction of Poverty

The international community has long-since known that education alleviates poverty. There is a strong correlation between education, economic empowerment and low unemployment. Education helps economies grow and infrastructures develop. In South Korea, it was government policy that made education the biggest portion of the budget, next to defense. Government policy also used land reform to boost education. Land reform redistributed land which significantly reduced land ownership inequality. It thereby changed social policy, reduced poverty and aided in bringing educational levels to an all-time high. Rural populations with higher levels of education in South Korea produced a large workforce of well-educated individuals that served as a catalyst for industrialization and reduction of poverty. Today, although South Korea still battles poverty and an education gap between the rich and the poor, the country and its economy have greatly transformed since 1945.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Unsplash

Elderly Poverty in South Korea

While South Korea is home to great technological developments and world-famous rising trends, it also has one of the highest numbers of impoverished elderly in a single developed country. Around half of the senior citizens are living in poverty with little to no support from relatives or the government. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, consists of over 30 countries that work with one another to encourage economic development. Unfortunately, despite all the economic progress it has made, South Korea has the highest elderly poverty rate of all OECD countries.

How Elderly Poverty in South Korea Came to Be

In the 1970s, a financial crisis hit South Korea that caused around 2 million people to be unemployed, many of these workers being senior citizens today. When the country began building its economy back up, many companies decided to replace the older generation of workers with younger ones. While the younger workers did not cost as much, the newly jobless population was left with no other choice but to retire earlier than expected.

In the present day, the now elderly population who was affected by the financial crisis have to support themselves by working non-conventional jobs. These jobs include picking trash off the street, cleaning or in the most extreme cases, elderly prostitution. Since this way of living is detrimental to the mental wellbeing of the older population, senior suicide rates have risen over time. Just three years ago, for senior citizens around 70 years old, nearly 50 people out of 100,000 committed suicide. For senior citizens around 80 years old, that number went up to 70 people per 100,000.

South Korea’s Welfare Programs

  • Comprehensive Welfare Program: In 2012, South Korea began the Comprehensive Welfare Program to benefit the impoverished elderly population. Senior citizens who are physically compromised were given assistance in everyday routines, such as housework or laundry. Meals are provided at senior citizen dining halls and even delivered for those who cannot make it to a meal service location. Social service and activity programs were implemented as well, which helps boost the mood of the elderly who would not have otherwise gotten a form of entertainment anywhere else.
  • Community Care Program: In 2019, South Korea announced the Community Care Program to aid senior citizens as well as other vulnerable groups. This program is spread all throughout South Korea, with application booths in plenty of local areas. Similar to the Comprehensive Welfare Program, the Community Care Program also provides in-home care services for physically compromised seniors, as well as food deliveries. This program also provides public housing and elderly daycare for those in need of special assistance and care. Additionally, 12 million won (nearly $12,000) will be provided as subsidies for senior citizens who continue to reside in the Community Care Program.

Creating Jobs for Seniors

In late 2019, South Korea’s employment rate continued to grow over 300,000 new jobs every month. Employment in late 2019 was around 27.5 million jobs, which is over 330,000 more jobs from the previous year. This hiring growth was because of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s plans to increase senior jobs using the over 1.5 trillion won (nearly $1.5 billion) from their budget. Those who were out of a job previously were able to get a chance at improving their lives and livelihoods through becoming employed again.

– Karina Wong
Photo: Needpix

Higher Education

South Korea has some of the highest education rates out of all the nations in the developed world; however, the distortion in their public higher education system has created a massive trap in unemployment for many young South Koreans straight out of college. Over the past three years, the South Korean government has made vital reforms to extend and deepen its teachings in higher education. This way, university students can reap all the benefits of their education, attaining financial and mental stability.

The Moon Administration

South Korea’s occupational and economic market is ruled with an iron fist by families and partners of chaebol — gigantic oliguric companies and corporations who use complete nepotistic bias when employing young South Koreans, holding grotesque control over both financial and political sectors of their society. In May of 2017, President Moon Jae-in was elected into power. He promised South Koreans that the corruption the chaebol had caused in their society was to be renounced, diminished and abandoned, leading the way for South Korea to be more equal and equitable in employment and social politics.

Moon knew the most effective way to bring a major change in the job market was to make adjustments to the higher education system to decrease favoritism and competition between universities and employers. One form of action Moon pushed was “blind hiring,” or limiting the amount of information employers could request concerning an individual’s university ranking and GPA in their initial application. This would decrease the amount of profiling and preference which has been rooted in the South Korean occupational world.

SKY Universities

More than 80% of higher education institutions in South Korea are privately owned and have rigorous admissions, requiring students to pass a test that most individuals can pass only with a professional tutor or prior private specialty science and mathematics schooling. The three most prestigious universities in South Korea, known as SKY, are Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University. These schools are the only noted educational institutions for chaebol employers. This makes it extremely difficult for individuals from low-income homes to ever attain such professions because they don’t have the funds for a private tutor or prior elite schooling to be admitted to a SKY university.

In attempts to have a more socioeconomic diverse population of students at SKY universities, in 2018, the Moon administration ordered the SKY universities to make their admissions testing far less extensive and detailed to increase the number of applicants who would be able to pass the entry exam. The current government administration also put limitations on the number of students the SKY universities could accept so that more public universities in South Korea could build their reputations on the job market. Both of the SKY initiatives placed by Moon were very innovative in disassembling the distorted educational promises of South Korean society.

Elimination of Elite Education

The Moon administration has aimed to eliminate all elite high schools to equalize the kind of education that young South Koreans are receiving, creating a more fair college admissions process by 2025. Thirteen universities in Seoul that had more than 25% of students from elite secondary schools were evaluated to examine their admissions systems level of integrity by being impartial when admitting students.

How Education Will Repair the Job Market

President Moon has made a tremendous effort by being the first political leader to go against the ancient, corrupt societal standards in employment and hiring practices. By placing more regulations on the educational private sector, both the political and social sectors will begin to be dismantled as well, creating even more building blocks for young South Koreans to move up the socioeconomic ladder. With the inequality of private educational institutions becoming more publicized through governmental action, a more secure and bright future is developing for the classist poverty trap of South Korea.

– Nicolettea Rose Daskaloudi
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in South Korea
South Korea is one of the many countries in the world that provides universal health care for its citizens. This universal health care is both a source of relief and national pride for many South Koreans. This pride is further amplified by the fact that modern health care in South Korea rose out of the devastation of the Korean War. With the recent COVID-19 global pandemic, South Koreans rely, now more than ever, on their health care system.

History of the South Korean Health Care System

South Korea’s health care system was developed at the end of the Korean War in 1953. One of the first projects that aimed to help South Korea was the Minnesota Project, launched in September 1954. Under the Minnesota Project, Seoul National University agreed to receive medical education and equipment from the University of Minnesota. The U.S. Department of State also contracted the University of Minnesota to assist Seoul University with staff improvement and equipment aid.

This project allowed the health care system to grow and flourish over tte next couple of decades. In 1977, the Korean government mandated all companies with more than 500 employees to provide health insurance programs for employees.

How South Korean Health Care Works

Established in 2000, the National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC) is still in charge of national insurance enrollment, collecting contributions and setting medical fee schedules. To provide coverage for all Korean citizens, the NHIC gathers contribution payment from all citizens as part of their taxes. In addition to the contribution payment, the NHIC gather their funds through government subsidies, outside contributions and tobacco surcharges. This wide range of funding sources allows South Korea to provide clinics that are both modern and efficient.

Prevailing Issues

The South Korean health care system does have some issues, however. While the overall quality of health care in South Korea is excellent, access to high-quality medical care can still be difficult for rural residents. According to a WHO case study of South Korea, 88.8% of physicians in South Korea were employed by non-governmental clinics. These non-governmental clinics are usually located in urban areas. About 25% of all elderly over the age of 65 years reside in rural areas, where they are at high risk of falling and other physical injuries. With physicians mainly located in urban areas, the South Korean government recognizes the need to improve health care in rural areas.

A more recent issue that the South Korea health care system is facing is the treatment of foreign nationals. In the past, there were some foreigners who forewent payment after their medical treatment in South Korea. Termed “health care dine and dash,” the Korean government now requires all foreign nationals to sign up for the National Health Insurance scheme within their first six months of living in the country. Once a foreign national receives their Alien Registration Card, they can benefit from Korea’s National Health Insurance Scheme and private insurance.

A Model of Universal Health Care For the World

Developing out of the devastation of the Korean War, the excellent quality of health care in South Korea is a prime example of how a country can implement and sustain universal health care. Despite needs for improvement, the South Korean health care system remains an international model for universal health care. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, South Koreans recognize the importance of their continuous support for the universal health care system.

 – YongJin Yi 
Photo: Pixabay

South Korea’s Banjihas
South Korea, a country located in East Asia, has a population of almost 52 million residents. Since the 1960s, South Korea has grown economically, shifting from a poor agrarian society to one of the most industrialized nations in the world. However, there is still a division gap between the rich and the poor.

While the economic growth has rapidly expanded urban areas, like Seoul and Pusan, which promoted the construction of apartments, poor people still live in semi-basement homes called Banjiha.

What are Banjihas?

Banjihas are semi-basement apartments that exist throughout South Korea. Typically, young people end up living in these lower-rent apartments while climbing the work ladder. In addition, lower-class citizens often live in these homes.

South Korea’s Banjihas initially emerged to protect the citizens from the war with North Korea in 1953 by acting as bunkers. The law required these bunkers during this era. Due to the bunker-style construction, South Korea’s Banjihas are roughly five to seven steps below the street level. As time went by, South Korea eased construction laws and permitted Banjihas to act as actual homes after the 1980 housing crisis. These converted bunkers only allow minimal light from a small window; due to the underground nature and minimal airflow, there is often mold in these tiny spaces.

The film “Parasite” by Bong Joon-ho illustrates life in South Korea’s Banjihas and demonstrates the wealth disparity throughout the nation. It portrays the struggles of lower-class life in Banjihas, while the upper class lives in luxurious mansions.

According to the BBC, South Korea’s Banjihas are inexpensive housing options starting from 540,000 won ($453 U.S.). Typically, the minimum monthly wage of a person in South Korea starts at 1.8 million won ($1,500), making Banjihas smart financial decisions. Banjihas exist as homes for almost 364,000 families in South Korea, accounting for 1.9% of the nation, according to a 2015 survey by the Korean Statistical Information Services.

Living in Banjihas

Haebangchon is one of the oldest neighborhoods in South Seoul; the neighborhood used to be a shooting field for the 20th division of the Japanese Army. With time, it became the epicenter for refugees and home to non-citizens from all parts of the world.

With the diversity that Haebangchon, also known as the Liberation Village, brings, new shops and restaurants pop all the time. New flavors and experiences from unknown parts of the world are available for consumers.

However, a decent amount of the population in Haebangchon still lives in Banjihas. The converted bunkers carry a stigma in that people immediately consider those living in Banjihas as poor. Bong stated at the Cannes Festival that a “Banjiha is a space with a peculiar connotation… It’s undeniably underground, and yet [you] want to believe it’s above ground.”

South Korea’s Banjihas not only represent a state of poverty, but they also represent the substantial social divide in South Korea. The higher a person lives in an apartment building, the higher social status that people add to that individual’s persona.

The tiny space takes on a distinct smell from the dampness and mold. That smell tends to linger within the walls, floors, bedding sheets and even clothing. One can compare South Korea’s Banjihas to Favelas in Brazil and cage homes in Hong Kong. Further, Banjihas are the most affected spaces during floods because of the low level. Sewage will clog and add to the stench throughout the home.

In a Los Angeles Times article, South Korean poet Shin-Hyum-rim wrote a poem about living in a Banjiha titled “The Happiness of Banjiha Alice,” alluding to Alice’s emotions while in Wonderland. This poem effectively outlines how tolling desperation and stress can be on a person’s psyche.

The Good News

Although 62% of South Korea’s Banjihas exist in Seoul, the number of this type of housing is declining. Since South Korea enacted a law in 2003 requiring park spacing, the building of Banjihas has become almost impossible. Additionally, there has been a growing rush for urban redevelopment and the country is tearing down old buildings.

According to a census from Statistics Korea, the number of semi-basement homes in South Korea accounted for only 1.9% in 2015 in comparison to 3.69% in 2005.

Further, there are several non-governmental organizations, such as the Federation for Evicted People of Seoul (FEPS) and the Korean National Association of the Urban poor, that are focusing on helping low-income areas with housing difficulties. These NGOs work to secure housing and advocate for tenants who the government has evicted.

Interestingly, the younger generations are bringing change to life in South Korea’s Banjihas. When looking up #Banjiha on social media, many young people living in the apartments are reinventing what living in a Banjiha looks like. Many of these younger individuals are aiming to end the impoverished stigma around living in Banjihas.

Even though this is not the reality for many who struggle financially, both young and old citizens of South Korea are fighting for a better life, in hopes that with new construction laws and with the cooperation of NGOs and their government, South Korea’s Banjihas will be a symbolic memory of the past.

Merlina San Nicolás Leyva
Photo: Flickr