KOICA and USAID are Aiding the World
The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is partnering with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to promote developmental change in 11 areas around the world. These areas include education, global health and economic security. The partnership will run from 2023 to 2025 and is benefitting areas around the world including in Africa, Latin America and the Indo-Pacific region.

The agencies first met in Washington D.C. at the USAID headquarters on December 5, 2022, to discuss measures related to their joint effort. This meeting was the first between the agencies’ leaders in eight years. According to U.S. Mission Korea, “Once a recipient of USAID support, South Korea is now a leading democracy and strong partner of the Agency and the broader U.S. government, providing $2.9 billion in development assistance globally in 2021.” Here is more information about how KOICA and USAID are aiding the world.

Overview of How South Korea is Aiding the World

South Korea or officially known as the Republic of Korea began donating to the international community in 1963. This donation was through Triangular Cooperation with USAID. Korea went from being an aid recipient of USAID to being, “the first former aid recipient to join OECD’s Developmental Assistance Committee.”

The KOICA originated in 1991 and to this day follows its guiding mission of “contributing to the common prosperity and the promotion of world peace through inclusive, mutual development cooperation leaving no one behind.”

Since KOICA’s founding, it has donated a total of $563 million to countries across the world. The most recent partnership with USAID will increase this total and further benefit those around the world.

How KOICA and USAID are Aiding the World

On top of the 11 areas the two agencies wish to focus upon, they will work towards 27 tasks in these 11 areas. The two agencies have also agreed to have a shared platform for exchanging results and implementing common projects between them. The utilization of Korea’s digital economy strength will benefit the two agencies, and the two countries’ “common values of human rights, rule of law, and civil society, and in the sector of private partnership.”

Both the President of KOICA, Sohn Hyuk-sang, and USAID administrator, Samantha Power had high praise for the most recent cooperation between the agencies. They both hope the most recent Work Plan will continue to sustain a positive relationship between the U.S. and Korea as well as use the two countries’ resources to help others across the globe.

President Sohn had this to say about the meeting, “As we meet the 70th anniversary of the ROK-U.S. alliance in 2023, I am pleased that the development cooperation agencies of our two countries can gather in one place to discuss sustainable and fruitful cooperation as a part of realizing our global comprehensive strategic alliance.”

About The Work Plan

The Work Plan will fall into place with Korea’s new Indo-Pacific strategy. According to KOICA’s website, “Through the implementation of the Work Plan, KOICA plans to focus on carrying out development cooperation to support developing countries in the Indo-Pacific region in responding to [changing weather patterns] and disasters.”

The Work Plan has the potential to deliver quality resources and aid to developing countries across the world. The way that KOICA and USAID are aiding the world will have an immensely positive effect on those in need. The goals of the project will greatly benefit those who are underserved including those who are in poverty as well as those experiencing the most challenges due to changing weather patterns.

– Sean McMullen
Photo: Flickr

Helping Single Mothers
Around the world, 13% of women are single mothers with children under 15-year-old, according to research. However, in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, there are 25% and 32% of single mothers, respectively. One direct consequence caused by single motherhood is child poverty and this correlation between child poverty and single mothers do not exist without reasons. For instance, since single mothers tend to have relatively lower incomes, their children are unlikely to receive complete education, limiting their career options. In turn, this makes the single mothers and their offspring more difficult to escape poverty, thereby forming a poverty cycle. Yet, some international organizations are helping single mothers by providing guidance and support, both mentally and financially. 

Littleones (Japan)

Among the 34 OECD countries, Japan has the highest poverty rate for single mothers. Approximately 48% of single-mother families have no more than 500,000 yen or $3,500 USD of savings. Despite the depressing figures, there is the NGO, Littleones, meaning “little children.” According to the organization, its objective is to support children in both big and small ways since “children are the hope of the future.”

Focusing on single families in Tokyo, Littleones helps needy families in three different ways. First, to organize social events such as hiking and Christmas parties, allowing mothers to build friendships and establish solidarity. Second, to advise mothers on issues including education, legal matters and employment opportunities. Third, to help those mothers to find suitable housing.

Empowering Young African Single Mothers (EYASM) (Cameroon)

In Cameroon, it is common to find many single mothers between their 20s and 30s. Single mothers live in poverty and the public also discriminates against them. However, the government has not done much to help single mothers. Therefore, Empowering Young African Single Mothers has taken the lead. Similar to Littleones, EYASM believes that “children of today are the leaders of tomorrow.” Such conviction leads the NGO to a series of objectives, for example, to help children break the poverty cycle and encourage single mothers to establish self-reliance, self-esteem and self-awareness.

One interesting project that EYASM did in 2020 was the Single Mothers Empowerment Contest, in which the top five winners received money as prizes. The purpose of this was to encourage single mothers to become entrepreneurs for livelihood. 

Korean Unwed Mothers Families Association (KUMFA) (South Korea)

The conventional social conceptions in Korean society make single mothers harder to sustain themselves and their families – the public perceives them as sexually promiscuous. Consequently, finding a stable job becomes a challenge for unwed mothers. Yet, the government does not provide sufficient financial support to them. According to the National Statistical Office and Bank of Korea, while the monthly income of the average Korean family was 4 million won in 2017 or $3,640 USD, only 200,000 won or $180 USD a month for single parents with an income of less than 1.55 million or $1,400 USD.

KUMFA aims to protect the maternal rights of single mothers and establish a support network for the mothers to exchange information. Moreover, the NGO also practically helps single mothers – providing shelter for them and their children.

Hong Kong Federation Of Women’s Centers (HKFWC)  (Hong Kong)

According to the government’s thematic report on single parents in 2016, Hong Kong had approximately 56,515 single mothers, with an average monthly income of 12,000 HKD or $1,520 USD.

Similar to other organizations, HKFWC understands the need to establish a community for single mothers. Calling the project “You’re Not Alone,” the organization matches volunteers with the same background as single mothers, forming a more personal relationship.

Looking Ahead

Overall, it is more challenging for children coming from single-parent households to break the poverty chain. However, international organizations are helping single mothers, changing the lives of many single-parent families.

Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Extraordinary Attorney Woo
The Korean drama, or K-Drama, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” reached both domestic and global popularity since its debut on June 29, 2022. Between July 25 and July 31, the drama noted more than 65.63 million streaming hours. This K-drama follows the life of an autistic genius, Woo Young-woo, as she juggles her career as a rookie attorney and faces discrimination in the workplace and her personal life. Slowly, as she tackles one case after another, her colleagues begin to accept her and her autism. “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” sheds light on an important issue in South Korea: Disabled people need more support.

Disabled People in South Korea

More than 2.6 million individuals (5%) of South Korea’s population in 2022 are registered as disabled people, but despite this large number, disabled people face persistent barriers and discrimination in transportation, schools and the workplace.

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” particularly highlights the difficulties Woo endured while trying to secure employment and the discrimination she faced in the workplace. This is a reality for many disabled people in South Korea. Disabled people are also at a higher risk of poverty due to barriers in the workplace, such as a lack of disability facilities.

Although South Korea’s government aimed to increase fair work opportunities for disabled people, the employment rate among people with disabilities stood at 34.5% in 2019, which is significantly lower than South Korea’s national employment rate average of 60.9%. Inadequate accommodation for disabled people in the workplace, “such as wheelchair ramps and accessible toilets,” presents barriers to securing or maintaining employment,  which is key to economic security. However, for a majority of disabled people, securing employment is limited due to a lack of disability-friendly facilities and structures.

Additionally, disabled people in South Korea also have limited access to education. Despite more than 98,000 students meeting the eligibility requirements for “special education” in 2021, less than 28% of them attended specialized schools for students with disabilities and the others studied in “special education classes” in traditional schools. However, disabled students in traditional schools are subject to “bullying and condescension.” Moreover, traditional school designs do not account for the needs of disabled students.

Progress for Disabled People in South Korea

“Extraordinary Attorney Woo” depicts a relatively more accepting work environment that is not far from reality. In 2017, 80% of disabled people reported facing discrimination, but in 2021, the figure has fallen to almost 66%. South Korea has made many leaps in progress to bring equality to disabled people.

Advocacy is key to bringing change for disabled people as protests and movements led the government to pass many pieces of legislation. For instance, the 2005 Act on Promoting Transportation Convenience for Mobility Disadvantaged Persons mandated the accommodation of disabled people in public transportation through special customizations. In 2007, through legislation, South Korea prohibited the discrimination of disabled persons.

Moreover, South Korea has law firms that have a disability as a practice area, allowing disabled people to secure their rights. Public interest law firms such as Gonggam, engage in and finance disability rights advocacy. Furthermore, the Korea Disability Law Association “published a manual on disability rights for lawyers and judges in 2013.” Such support for disabled people from institutions “bolsters policy implementation” and strengthens “disability-related governance.”

In the show, “Extraordinary Attorney Woo,” Woo stood as a harbinger of change as she made others realize their discriminatory perspectives. Similarly, self-advocacy by disabled people was pivotal in bringing change and expanding the rights of disabled people in South Korea. Although “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” highlights South Korea’s shortcomings in disability support, South Korea has been increasingly making progress in recognizing the rights of people with disabilities. With legal institutions and advocates stepping up, disabled people can participate in society more fully and rise up out of poverty.

– Samyukta Gaddam
Photo: Flickr

Hierarchy in South Korea
South Korea has a highly developed economy and hard-working citizens and many know it for its evolution from a developing nation to an advanced state within a few generations. South Korea’s citizens follow the country’s intense work ethic, which allows its cities, such as the famous capital city Seoul, to continue their progress in technological advancement. Although one can see the results of the South Korean hustle through the maturation of its economy in recent history, the hierarchy in South Korea has also had damaging effects on young workers and the elderly.

Corporate Culture in South Korea

Corporate culture in South Korea centers around hierarchy, in which your age and status are crucial. The work-life balance is unstable, as late at night, managers will often ask employees to come in early the next day or to finish work when they are not on the clock. However, while it is acceptable for employees to refuse this extra work, employees who comply often receive superior treatment. Around the world, within corporate culture, higher compensation usually follows greater responsibility and vice versa. However, within the hierarchy in South Korea, others expect employees with lower status to work harder to help those above them. Stagnant wages, which are highly dependent on long-term loyalty to the company, paired with long working hours pose a challenge to young professionals trying to afford a living.

One can consider some young employees predisposed to elderly poverty, as income inequality in the first half of their working years makes retirement planning extremely difficult.

Additionally, it is common for bosses to pressure employees to go out for food and drinks after the office closes, staying long past office hours. Oftentimes, this leads to unproductive mornings since the lively night before might have included drinking and socializing.

In general, lower productivity commonly results in less consumption, as the economy is not able to consume and produce services for the same quantity of labor. Because some employers value looking busy rather than true productivity, productivity within Korea has struggled.

Elderly Poverty

Despite one’s age being a factor within the hierarchy, surprisingly half of the South Korean elderly live in poverty. In 2020, 40.4% of South Koreans 66 years or older were living in poverty.

Due to South Korea’s aging population, experts believe that nearly one in two people living in poverty in the future will be elderly.

One crucial reason for this is that the younger generation cannot support their parents and South Korean corporate culture contributes to this issue. Hustle culture in South Korea generally requires employees to work longer hours than in comparison with other countries within the Organization For Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Average working hours in Korea are 17% higher than the OECD average.

With the westernization of the Korean workplace and subsequent family expectations, the younger generation is less inclined to live with their parents to support them. In 1994, 54.7% of elderly people lived with their children, however, this number decreased to 23.7% by 2017.

Aside from the inability of young professionals to care for their parents, increasing poverty among the elderly is due to the structure of the salary system within the corporate culture. Hierarchy dictates that salary increases based on how many years a loyal employee has worked for the company. Although those within the system receive more respect, the higher salaries to the older working generation incentivize companies to encourage early retirement.

Government pensions following retirement only amount to $200. According to the National Pension Research Institute Survey, this is just a quarter of what is necessary for single households. In addition, pensions only go to 35% of the elderly population.

Alleviating Stress

Despite the harm that arises from longer working hours, South Korea hit an all-time high in productivity in 2020. Recently, many corporations have shortened working hours so that employees may have a better work-life balance. Millie, a book firm, as well as e-commerce company Cafe24, implemented a four-day work week to reduce worker fatigue. In addition, some airlines and duty-free stores have followed suit. To measure the opinions of the working citizens, surveyors asked 1,164 office workers how a four-day work week would benefit them; half of the participants claimed that fewer hours would result in self-improvement. When the surveyors asked what the office workers would first do with their new free time, 44.5% asserted that they would try a new hobby.

Reducing obstacles to the elderly will immensely bolster the workforce and improve productivity, while actively fighting discrimination and reducing elderly poverty. Among surveyed Koreans aged 40-50, 64.9% believed that reserving more jobs for the elderly would best reduce elderly poverty. The Aged Employment Promotion Act of 2003 aimed incentives at companies to increase the employment of the elderly. Many agree that the proliferation of these policies will alleviate poverty among the aging.

Caroline Zientek
Photo: Flickr

Gender wage gap in South KoreaSouth Korea has been ranking at the top in the gender wage gap for over 30 years since joining the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1997. In 2020, South Korean men earned 31.5% more than women. Although it has made significant achievements in enhancing gender equity, in 1997 the gender wage gap in South Korea was over 40%, the East Asian country is still trying to protect female employees’ rights in the workplace to enhance productivity and narrow the gender wage gap.

Gender Disparities in the Workforce

Not only do men on average earn over 30% more than women, but female workforce participation is also 20% lower than male participation.  From 2009 – 2019 the participation rate inched up only to be decimated during the pandemic. That’s because, despite the fact that South Korea has a higher than average female rate with tertiary education, most South Koren women work in the lower-paying service sectors such as wholesale and retail sales and the food sector —  many of these businesses shut down during COVID-19 lockdowns. Quality child care is difficult to access, and that leads to many South Korean women staying home with their children rather than returning to the workforce.

Birthrate Drop

Even before the pandemic, a birthrate drop has been one social problem plaguing South Korea. In 2020, the average number of children a woman has in her lifetime dropped to .84. This was down from .92 in 2019, but the rate has been declining for years, with 2020 being the third year in a row where the rate was below 1%. Analysts fear that the declining birthrate will have dire economic consequences as South Korea’s population ages.

Financial Incentives for Parental Leave

Due to the declining birthrate, in 2020 South Korea instituted new financial incentives for families to have children. On top of the $91 monthly allowance for all children under seven years, the government now gives an additional cash bonus of $275 a month for the first year for all new babies starting in 2022. Unfortunately, as a 2022 study underlined, the longer a woman takes for maternity leave, the wider the wage gap between her and her male counterparts.  Lower wages, less prestigious jobs and fewer benefits await women when they return from their maternity leave, according to the study.

Though South Korea allows men to take parental leave, the percentage of leave taken was 24.5% in 2020. Recently, the government has initiated new policies to encourage men to take more parental leave, such as paying three months of salary. When both parents take their parental leave during the first year of their child’s birth, they will receive 100% of their monthly income, rather than previously, when only one parent received 100% while the other received 80%. 

Combat Effects of the Pandemic

Not only did South Korean women suffer more job losses than men during the pandemic, they felt the brunt of caretaking responsibility for their children and older family members who fell ill.  During the first six months of 2020, 56% of South Korean women said they increased their work related to taking care of their family, and 62% of Koreans taking family leave that year were women.

To address the pandemic’s greater effect on women, the South Korean government introduced unemployment subsidies and expanded childcare leave to 10 days in the early stages of the pandemic. It has also emphasized offering financial support to small and medium enterprises unlikely to manage the economic shocks under the pandemic and providing cash support to households.

Reduce Gender discrimination in the Workplace

In addition to its efforts to combat the effects of the pandemic, in 2021 government enacted new policies to reduce the gender wage gap in South Korea. First, it raised the 2022 minimum wage by roughly 5% from the previous figure. Also, for the first time, employees will be able to petition the Labor Relations Commission for relief in gender discrimination and sexual harassment cases, and the available remedies will include damages.

The Labor Standards Act now also provides pregnant female employees with a right to change their start and end times of daily work while keeping the required working hours. The employer cannot refuse the request unless the changed hours would seriously interfere with the regular operation of the business. Also, private companies with five to 29 employees must now provide holiday pay for public holidays.

Importantly, the government continues to focus on gender mainstreaming.  The Framework Act of Gender Equality which was revised in 2014 focuses on enhancing women’s status in the workplace.  It also enacted a gender-impact analysis and assessment in 2011, and in 2018 alone put in place over 2600 policy changes as a result of that assessment. Finally, gender-responsive budgeting demands that both national and local governments distribute national resources evenly to men and women.

Looking Forward

As South Korea’s population continues to shrink, continuing to narrow the gender wage gap in South Korea will be increasingly important for social and economic reasons.  The government measures including parental subsidies, raising the minimum wage and gender mainstreaming should help, but sustained diligence is crucial. As the OECD comments, however: “In order to successfully overcome the current challenges that Korean society currently confronts, employing these very educated but underutilized human resources is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do.”

– Shiyu Pan
Photo: Wikimedia

Single Mothers in South Korea
In 2020, South Korea had 1.5 million single-parent households. One factor that impacts this statistic is that gender inequality is a pressing issue in many Asian countries, South Korea included. In 2017, women in South Korea earned 63% less than their male counterparts did, and, according to a 2018 OECD working paper, “16.5% of poor Korean households spend at least 30% of their income on children’s education.” With such inequality and heavy demands on childcare, single mothers in South Korea continue to struggle. This article will explore the difficulties that single mothers in South Korea face.


South Korea’s widening educational inequality pressures families to spend more on their children’s education with private education becoming increasingly important. On average, Korean households pay for roughly 42% of their children’s primary and secondary education in comparison to the OECD average of 22%.

On top of that, Korean households also pay for “Hakwon” or “cramming schools,” which are private tutoring sessions that cost “18% of median household income per student.” As the educational system grows increasingly more competitive, these cramming school costs also increase in importance. For single mothers, particularly unwed mothers, supporting their children through the educational system is difficult as women cannot avoid the social stigma of having children outside of marriage because Korea’s birth registry, which is visible to schools and workplaces, labels their children as extra-marital.

Financial Support

Almost half of women in South Korea did not work in 2017 as many of them left the workforce to raise children. In Korea, more women than men have tertiary education qualifications. In fact, 76% of Korean women between the ages of 25 and 34 “had a tertiary qualification in 2020 compared to 64% of their male peers.” Yet, many women are not part of the labor force and those within the workforce earn significantly less than their male peers.

As one can imagine, single mothers may not have the option of leaving work due to the burden of financial responsibilities falling on them. Furthermore, South Korea’s workplace demands long hours. According to the OECD, in 2018, 71% of working women in South Korea worked at least 40 hours and 17% worked at least 60 hours; both of these averages are significantly higher than the OECD average.

The government also provides little financial support for single-parent families. If a single parent makes less than 1.55 million won ($1,400) per month, the government gives them 200,000 won ($180). Considering that the average monthly income of a Korean household is 4 million won ($3,640), an amount sufficient to cover most costs, the government payment to single mothers does not equate to much. Lastly, single motherhood, particularly for unwed mothers, carries a social stigma that prevents even families from providing support.


Although the pressing demands on single mothers in South Korea grow, statistics show wins for single-parent households. The educational attainment of impoverished single parents has risen, reducing from a low-level education rate of 40% in 2006 to 23% in 2012. This has led to a rise in these households’ standards of living and disposable income.

For single mothers, particularly those who face the social stigma of being unwed, the Korean Unwed Mothers’ Families Association (KUMFA) aims to create a society in which unwed mothers can raise their children without the social stigma of their situation impacting their lives.

A group of unwed mothers founded KUMFA in 2009 as a place for unwed mothers to meet monthly. Since that time, it has grown into an organization. According to its website, “KUMFA holds camps for each major holiday in Korea in order to provide family environments for moms and children during holiday seasons.” In addition, the organization “also provides educational, advocacy, and counseling support programs for unwed mothers.”

Single mothers in South Korea face the crunch between rising educational costs and low wages for women. On top of that, the social stigma around single motherhood follows them everywhere and embeds itself even in the registration of their children’s births. Despite this, women have shown resilience and KUMFA is a great example of solidarity between those facing the same circumstances.

– Rachael So
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Renewable Energy in South Korea
In 2020, the South Korean
 Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) introduced the 9th Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Demand and Supply 2020-2034. In this plan, MOTIE sets a goal for renewable energy in South Korea to account for around 40% of the energy mix by 2034. Impressively, 100% of all South Koreans have access to electricity, however, most of the nation’s energy comes from non-renewable sources, which are not only expensive but are also unsustainable. 

Statistics on Energy in South Korea

In 2021, South Korea’s price of electricity increased “for the first time in around eight years” due to global fuel spikes. In June 2021, South Korea’s cost for energy for its citizens stood at $0.103 ( KRW123.02) per kWh (kilowatt-hour). On September 23, 2021, MOTIE announced that the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) intends to raise the rate per kWh to KRW3 by October 2021, meaning citizens can expect to pay another $0.88 (KRW1,050) monthly per household.

In comparison, in the United States, energy rates for households in November 2021 stood at $0.1412 per kWh. While South Korea’s energy rates per hour are cheaper, taking into account the vast number of people in Korea and the proportion of the population earning low wages, these rates are still costly. Energy rates could become more affordable with the use of renewable energy.

In 2020, crude oil was responsible for most of South Korea’s energy requirements, covering 35% of the country’s energy demands while coal covered 25% of energy requirements. Renewable energy in South Korea made up 1% of energy in 2020, with gas and nuclear covering the remaining energy needs at 17% and 16% respectively.

South Korea’s Poverty Rates

Between 2018 and 2019, South Korea’s poverty rate stood as the “fourth-highest” across 39 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states. This 16.7% poverty rate equates to one in every six Koreans living in relative poverty,  according to the Korean Herald. Korea’s unemployment rates are low, however, many employed citizens do not earn adequate incomes. This, combined with an aging society, contributes to the impoverished circumstances of many households and individuals.

How Renewable Energy Can Reduce Poverty

In 2015, South Korea’s capital city of Seoul implemented the Energy Welfare Public-Private Partnership Program to address issues of energy poverty among impoverished city dwellers. The project constructed a virtual power plant “through which 17 municipal buildings and 16 universities save electricity consumption during peak hours and donate profits from saved power back to the program to finance energy welfare.” The virtual power plant has led to “annual profits of more than $180,000,” which goes to the Seoul Energy Welfare Civic Fund. With this funding, more than 2,000 low-income households received retrofitting of “LED light bulbs, energy-efficient windows and solar panels” to reduce energy costs and harmful greenhouse emissions. The Seoul Energy Welfare Civic Fund also prioritized training the unemployed as community energy consultants, which led to 180 new employment opportunities.

Why Renewable Energy is Important

Renewable energy could increase access to energy for those living in poverty and reduce production costs and the selling price of electricity.

According to the World Economic Forum, in 2020, renewable energy stood as the most affordable energy source and the costs of renewable energy technology continue to reduce each year. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), “emerging economies will save up to $156 billion over the lifespan of the renewable projects added in 2020 alone,” which would help to significantly reduce global poverty.

With South Korea as the “ninth-largest energy consumer in 2019,” the use of renewable energy can reduce the price of energy for citizens living in poverty.

Future of Renewable Energy in South Korea

Renewable energy can make electricity more affordable for all citizens, allowing them to focus finances on other basic necessities, investments and welfare programs. With the future increase of renewable energy, a decrease in air pollution and carbon emissions is also a significant positive benefit.

– Kyle Swingle
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in South Korea
South Korea is one of the largest economies in the world as well as one of the best-educated countries. Over the last few decades, unprecedented economic growth and democratization have marked this nation. It currently ranks number five in relative income poverty among the 33 countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). More specifically, 16% of the overall population is impoverished whereas 12% of citizens between 0 and 17 years of age and 43% of South Koreans 66 years of age and older are in poverty. Despite this data, hunger in South Korea is relatively low.

About Hunger in South Korea

South Korea ranks 32nd alongside Australia on the Global Food Security Index with a score of 71.6. During the last 15 years, the undernourishment percentage has remained stable at approximately 2.5%. This is due to the measures and programs that the government uses to prevent malnutrition in the country. About 50 years ago, South Korea was one of the most impoverished countries in the world. The Korean War devastated the nation. South Korea went from receiving food assistance until 1984 to currently standing as one of the 20 largest donors to the World Food Programme (WFP). South Korea has successfully transitioned from receiving help to providing it.

Food Safety Management System

The government has launched various programs to help fight hunger in South Korea, such as the Food Safety Management System to ensure food is safer and healthier. All food that the country produces goes through three steps: manufacturing, distribution and consumption. In the manufacturing process, the operator must submit an item manufacturing report; in addition, South Korea carries out self-quality inspections to guarantee the safety of the product. The products undergo distribution along with inspections to ensure product safety and to rule out harmful foods. Finally, in the consumption phase, the announcements and the sanitation of the food undergo monitoring.

Food Waste Recycling

The prevalence of food waste in South Korea is high. Currently, the nation recycles up to 95% of these scraps when in 1995 it recycled only 2% of the total food waste. This is due to the introduction of biodegradable bags within which citizens put their food waste. South Korea then uses the leftovers as fertilizers or animal feed. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, has installed more than 6,000 containers that weigh the amount of food discarded and charge the citizen. This has helped reduce the amount of food that the city wastes by 47,000 tons. The inhabitants of South Korea each produce 130 kilograms of food waste per year, while in other areas such as the United States or Europe, the number decreases to between 95 kg to 115 kg of food waste per citizen each year.

International Aid

South Korea has managed to build a strong economy and lift most of its population out of famine. The post-war in the 1950s left the country with a high rate of famine. However, in the last decades, South Korea has been able to achieve economic growth. Currently, in addition to the national policies that help in the fight against hunger in South Korea, the government is helping the international community combat hunger by providing aid and donating rice. In 2021, South Korea provided aid to six countries suffering the impacts of the pandemic, including Yemen, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Syria and Laos, donating 50,000 tons of rice.

Overall, the nation has made significant progress in reducing hunger in South Korea and will continue on an upward trajectory with continued commitments to alleviating food waste and improving food security.

– Ander Moreno
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

COVID-19's Impact on South KoreaOriginating from Asia, it is no surprise that COVID-19 has affected many Asian countries. However, there is one prominent country that has persevered despite the drastic impacts of the pandemic — South Korea. Shrouded in technology, entertainment and education, South Korea has transformed itself from a lower-developed economy to a high-income leader in innovation. COVID-19 has impacted South Korea for better and for worse. Here are six facts about COVID-19’s impact on South Korea.

6 Facts About COVID-19’s Impact on South Korea

  1. With a strong economic connection to China, South Korea was one of the first countries to report coronavirus cases. Forty days after South Korea’s first case on January 20, 2020, the country confirmed close to 1,000 cases. The cases only increased in number due to inadequate understanding of the severity of the virus. Therefore, after this spike, the country made great efforts to contain the outbreak and educate its citizens. For instance, South Korea successfully implemented mandatory masking and accessible testing as well as advanced contact tracing. Currently, although there were more than 269,000 COVID-19 cases in South Korea as of September 10, 2021, the country has a contrasting number of around 2,300 total deaths.
  2. Multiple countries praise South Korea’s well-executed plan to persist during the pandemic. Korea is notable for these concepts: early plan, speed and awareness. To begin with, there was an immediate and early response to the first case, allowing for fast prevention. Also, the government focused on moving quickly in implementing COVID-19 regulations and notifying the public with information and safety guidelines. Hence, internationally, South Korea became a top model for dealing with the virus.
  3. To prevent the spread of the virus, the world and South Korea limited travel. Travel in and out of South Korea decreased significantly along with tourism. The OECD has stated that these financial risks of limited travel can lead to rising unemployment, which can be detrimental to those in poverty. Korea’s exports have reduced as well, decreasing dramatically as China started shutting down certain systems for safety and health purposes. For instance, in April 2020, 24.3% of exports dropped and caused many losses. In response, South Korea developed a plan called the Korea New Deal in order to invest in advanced technology and the well-being of workers.
  4. South Korea has one of the highest rates of elderly poverty. Most elderly South Koreans sell box scraps, run street food stations and clean unsanitary areas to survive. Thus, the country implemented stronger social protection and stable labor market regulations. South Korea also implemented safe social distancing procedures in 250,000 jobs.
  5. The eruption of COVID-19 negatively impacted many lives but accelerated research efforts. Multiple health authorities collaborated in private laboratories to uncover the efficacy of contact tracing, rapid regulatory tests and screening clinics. The country attempted several data tests and experiments, and in doing so, South Korea discovered more about the actual SARS-CoV-2 and better prevention methods. Scientific and mechanical technology has also improved for the better and advancements have become more rapid. Therefore, seemingly, COVID-19’s impact on South Korea includes more than direct health-related scenarios.
  6. Leaders of South Korea prioritize providing the public with current and up-to-date information and distinct guidelines on how to prevent infection. According to Exemplars in Global Health, South Korea was able to respond fast to COVID-19 due to its experience with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) back in 2015, which presented a similar health crisis. To fight misinformation during the pandemic, authorities are focusing on providing the nation with regular and accurate COVID-19 information.

Concluding Thoughts

COVID-19’s impact on South Korea comes with twists and turns, however, although there are many troubles, the country has solutions. History has seen South Korea rise up from its colonization to a booming economy. This East Asian country is now attempting to prevent an increase in COVID-19 cases through a comprehensive plan.

The virus is mutating and the Delta variant is only worsening countries’ conditions. As a result, the mask mandates that South Korea recently lifted are back in place. However, South Korea’s progress and plans so far indicate that it is well-prepared to mitigate any further consequences of COVID-19.

– Minjae Eum
Photo: Flickr

Suzy's Philanthropic EffortsK-pop idol and actress Bae Suzy, known professionally as Suzy, has made a name for herself in the Korean media industry. The star made her K-pop debut in 2010 and has since transitioned into acting, performing in highly rated K-dramas. In addition to her successes in the entertainment industry, Suzy has also worked to impact others with her philanthropy. Over the years, Suzy has donated to various charities, hoping to alleviate poverty in South Korea.

A History of Donations

One of Suzy’s most notable donations was to the Community Chest of Korea. The Community Chest of Korea is a national network of 16 locally governed organizations. The network works to improve conditions and empower the undeserved through sharing within the community. It is Korea’s largest community impact charity. Suzy has donated more than $100,000 to the organization. It recognized Suzy’s philanthropic efforts when she was made the seventh overall entertainer to join the society.

Another organization that Suzy has donated to is the Babo Nanum foundation. The organization announced that Suzy donated $42,087.90 to its Stars Filled with Dreams campaign. This campaign aims to help children achieve their dreams through education. In particular, Suzy sought to help those who had been affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic. She had previously donated to other COVID-19 related charities; earlier, she donated $84,175.80 dollars to the Good Neighbors charity, which aids low-income families during the pandemic.

A Variety of Goals through Philanthropy

In addition to the Babo Nanum Foundation, Suzy has donated to other children’s charities. Children’s Day is on May 5 and is considered a national holiday in Korea. This year, the star made headlines for her generous $89,200 gift to the Happy Sharing Taekwondo Federation in honor of the holiday. Happy Sharing Taekwondo Federation is a volunteer organization centered around the principles of support and the sport of taekwondo. The organization will use the money to help less fortunate children in orphanages and young adults who child welfare institutions no longer protect. Her support has also extended to single mothers — she has previously donated $18,584 to the Korean Unwed Mothers Support Network.

Suzy’s philanthropic efforts make impacts across South Korea. She has previously donated $8,520 to a charity managed by the Buk District Council of Gwangju, her hometown community. She has also donated $12,600 to low-income families through the Life Share Association. The organization used the donated money to benefit low-income households by providing daily necessities. She has also donated $84,343 to the International Relief and Development NGO Good Neighbors and the Hope Bridge National Disaster Relief Association. Suzy made these donations last year after torrential rain caused flooding in South Korea. She has also donated about $80,000 to Gangwon Province after forest fires left many people homeless.

Working for a Better Korea

While Korean media has become popular overseas, poverty in South Korea remains prevalent. As of 2019, the poverty rate in Korea was 16.7%. Part-time and dispatched workers, along with the elderly, typically struggle more to earn or secure their financial lives relative to others. Suzy’s philanthropic efforts serve to support the economically emerging nation. Fans around the world eagerly await to see where the philanthropic entertainer will donate next.

– Carly Johnson
Photo: Wikimedia