Single Mothers in South Korea
In 2020, South Korea had 1.5 million single-parent households. 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.

Education

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.

Progress

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

offshore wind farmSouth Korea’s government announced plans to construct an 8.2 gigawatt “offshore wind facility by 2030.” Once completed, the project will stand as “the world’s largest single offshore development.” The project comes with economic and environmental advantages for South Korea. In order to help the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the offshore wind farm will increase revenue and energy production. The plan forms part of President Moon Jae-in’s Green New Deal project. The Green New Deal began in 2020 and will help Asia’s fourth-largest economy reduce its dependence on fossil fuels.

Offshore Wind Farm Funding and Benefits

The offshore wind facility project has already garnered significant funding. Several companies have contributed $42.4 billion to the project and the government will cover $802 million of the cost. In addition to generating renewable energy, the offshore wind project will create 5,600 jobs in the area. It will also extend South Korea’s “existing 1.67GW wind power capacity to 16.5GW by 2030.”

South Korean officials state that the wind energy facility “will produce energy equivalent to the output of six nuclear reactors.” The project has garnered significant support around the country due to its many benefits. A signing ceremony recently occurred for the new wind project in Sinan, a coastal town in the southwest region of the country. The offshore wind farm project is predicted to make an impressive impact on the country’s economy due to citizen, government and fiscal support.

Economic Impact of COVID-19 on South Korea

South Korea’s early response to the COVID-19 pandemic was successful as early testing and containment of the virus limited spread. However, the virus caused an economic recession due to halted business operations, closed borders and restricted mobility. For the first time since 2003, South Korea fell into a “technical recession.” In the first quarter of 2020, South Korea’s GDP declined by 1.3% followed by a second quarter decline of 3.3%.

The recession was caused greatly by a lack of demand for South Korean exports. Exports make up about 40% of the country’s GDP, so without the typically high supply and demand for products, South Korea’s economy was hard-hit. The economic decline also led to job losses across multiple sectors such as services, travel, hospitality, retail and manufacturing. As a consequence, South Koreans experienced harsh economic impacts, especially those already in poverty.

How Wind Power Improves Poverty

Despite South Korea’s status as a large world economy with high rankings in terms of education and healthcare, it still has a high poverty rate. The OECD ranked South Korea fifth among 33 countries for relative income poverty, with a rate of 16.7%. Relative income poverty is defined as “the ratio of the number of people whose income falls below half of the national median household income.”

Renewable energy sources such as wind power can help reduce poverty by decreasing a country’s reliance on fossil fuels. Fossil fuel prices can fluctuate drastically, causing instability in the economy. Wind turbines can replace the use of fossil fuels. The renewable energy sector also creates jobs and allows for energy security. With the power to use clean energy and bring economic prosperity to South Korean citizens, offshore wind farms provide a solution to poverty reduction.

The Future of Wind Farms

Overall, South Korean offshore wind farms could help South Korea bounce back economically after the COVID-19 pandemic. Wind energy is a sustainable resource as it is readily available. In comparison to fossil fuels, wind energy is more consistent and less expensive to harness. The boost in wind power could also place South Korea on the leaderboard for renewable energy.

Future prosperity and poverty reduction in South Korea will come from inclusive economic growth. With the use of renewable energy sources, sustainability and economic success are possible. Increasing accessibility to energy will thus help South Korea win the fight against poverty.

– Courtney Roe
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in South KoreaThe COVID-19 pandemic that began in late 2019 has impacted families, communities and society as a whole. The pandemic precautions have been a worldwide effort to keep everyone safe. In South Korea, there have been a total of 118,243 cases of COVID-19 as of April 2021. Of the 118,243 who tested positive, there have been 1,812 deaths but 107,781 individuals have recovered. The statistics show the persistent effort that is being demonstrated by the South Korean government to keep the country and its citizens safe.

COVID-19 in South Korea

South Korea has made it a priority to establish a system for the country and its citizens in order to keep everyone safe. In the early stages of COVID-19, South Korea made it a priority to mitigate the situation by distributing tests to as many people as possible. The results of the test, positive or negative, would gauge the severity of the outbreak. The goal was to have everyone quarantine so that the transmission of the virus, regardless of the positive or negative test result, would be slowed. The procedure that the South Korean officials followed was: test, trace and isolate. Within weeks of the first COVID-19 case, South Korea was the leading country in distributing tests. In perspective, by the end of April 2020, the United States had more than one million positive cases. South Korea had fewer than 11,000 cases. In the early stages of COVID-19, South Korea had 3,700 cases whereas the United States had 32. Managing the quick outbreak, and dealing with its repercussions was not easy for any country. However, South Korea was able to quickly formulate a system of test, trace and isolate. This helped lessen the number of lost lives.

Vaccine Efforts in South Korea

The creation and distribution of vaccines have been a large factor in the success that South Korea has seen in combatting COVID-19. South Korea has signed a contract with Pfizer to purchase another 40 million doses of its vaccine. Collectively, South Korea has 192 million doses of vaccines from Moderna, AstraZeneca PLC, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. The goal that South Korea had set was to have 70% of its citizens vaccinated with the first dose by November.

In order to obtain aid and assistance to receive these large quantities of vaccines, South Korea looks to the United States for help. South Korea provided assistance to the United States in the early stages of the pandemic with COVID-19 testing kits and face masks. Therefore, South Koreans hope for help from the United States in return. The U.S. State Department has made a statement regarding this vaccine alliance. The Department sees a possibility to help other countries increase their vaccine supplies but the citizens of the United States will be the priority.

Looking Ahead

South Korea was extremely successful in combating the virus at the beginning of the pandemic by acting quickly in response to testing and isolation. When no one knew how to handle the pandemic, South Korea stood as a strong example of how to minimize the effects of a global pandemic.

– Nicole Sung
Photo: Flickr

Educational Inequality in South Korea
Despite 70 years of impressive economic and educational development in South Korea, low-income households are struggling to close the achievement gap resulting from the income gap. Past educational inequality in South Korea persists today as low-income adults invest disproportionately in hopes their children will achieve academic and economic success.

Education and Poverty

In 2018, the Organization Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a working report on child poverty in South Korea. One positive finding is that only 7% of children live at or below the poverty line in Korea in comparison with the 13% average among OECD countries. A strong labor market and a steady decrease in birth rates both contributed to a drop in child poverty.

This report highlights education’s role in children’s standard of living regarding two key identifiable risk factors:

  • Cost of Education
  • Parental Education and Employment

Other factors such as rising rent prices also burden families. However, parental education has had a noticeable impact on a household’s income potential and how burdensome a household might find all expenditures, including the significant cost of children’s education.

The Cost of Cramming Schools

South Korean households pay about 42% of the costs of primary and secondary school education for their children compared with the 22% average among other OECD countries. These expenses include traditional fees and costs for supplies and afterschool activities.

Nearly 68% of students attend hagwons, otherwise known as cramming schools, which are private schools that children attend outside of their usual classes for an average of 4.6 hours per week. Cramming schools provide additional instruction on top of regular school hours in order to prepare students for competitive entrance exams. The more hours a child spends in those schools, the more money their families have to spend. An estimated 16.5% of poor households overspend on hagwons, investing around 30% of their income as opposed to the 5% average among higher-income households. These cramming schools demonstrate how parental employment impacts educational inequality in South Korea.

The Value of Parents’ Education

While South Korean employment rates line up with other OECD countries, the nature of employment is important. Having a parent in non-regular employment is a risk factor for child poverty and, indirectly, educational inequality in South Korea. Non-regular workers are subject to inconsistent or short-term employment with poorer conditions and pay. These workers make up one-third of the South Korean workforce and many possess a secondary education level or lower.

It is also notable that a growing number of highly educated people hold non-regular employment in South Korea. While non-regular workers make up a third of the labor force in South Korea, a third of those workers have completed tertiary education. However, this is due to competition for well-paid, regular work, and households with a highly educated head still tend to be better off than less educated households. Thus, attaining a higher education level remains desirable.

Dr. Soo-Yong Byun and Dr. Kyung-Keun Kim provide a greater context in their 2010 study, “Educational inequality in South Korea: The widening socioeconomic gap in student achievement.” Byun and Kim examined how a household’s socioeconomic status affected eighth-grade academic achievement. They determined that, regarding secondary education, parents’ socioeconomic status indirectly impacted their children’s achievement through how much money they could spend on hagwons.

Lower-income students unable to extensively attend hagwons, among other opportunities, might then experience a disadvantage in competitive exams determining which schools they might attend. Various cities and regions have implemented policies to equalize primary and secondary education, more evenly distributing lower-income students throughout higher quality public and private schools. However, this policy does not apply to all of South Korea or account for university entrance exams. This means children’s future socioeconomic achievement may be at risk due to their parents’ education and employment statuses.

Cutting Families a Break

The South Korean government recognizes the educational inequality that low-income families face and employs additional programs to address the issue. The National Center on Education and the Economy outlines some programs assisting low-income households regarding educational inequality in South Korea. Such programs comprise:

  • Free childcare for all children aged 3 to 5 years old
  • Vouchers for after-school activity fees for primary and secondary-aged students
  • Child Development Accounts in which the government will match the family’s contributions and alleviate future university or vocational school expenses
  • Incentives for teachers to work in schools with higher proportions of low-income students

Looking Ahead

South Korea continues to expand and experiment with its education and social policies in hopes of mitigating burdens on low-income households. Education already helped lift generations of South Koreans out of poverty. The government and families are investing in education and its equalization in hopes of lifting up thousands more.

– Mckenzie Howell
Photo: Flickr

Technology in South Korean SchoolsMany know South Korea for having high-quality education, resulting in influential economic and technological impacts. After World War II, South Korea reformed its educational system to emphasize the importance of national identity and benefiting all of society. One way the country began to alter education was through implementing technology in South Korean schools.

Education in Korea

A student who received an education in South Korea told The Borgen Project in an interview, Korean students must attend school for at least 220 days each year. Elementary school lasts from age 6 to age 14. Middle school lasts for three years, and high school lasts for another three years. In elementary school, each period lasts 40 minutes. For middle and high school, periods last 45 minutes. Students get between four and seven hours of instruction each day. Since 2007, Korean schools have been transitioning to five-day school weeks instead of six.  High schools have different categories; the main two are academic and vocational.

SMART Education in South Korean Schools

The “S” in SMART Education stands for “self-directed.” This means that students will initiate the learning. When the students have the willingness to gain knowledge, they are more likely to succeed in their education.

“M” stands for “motivated.” In the classroom, teachers include this concept by ensuring that the learning and teaching methods are engaging. This will help the students to be excited about their learning and more likely to work hard on given tasks.

“A” stands for “adaptation.” This allows education to be effective for different individuals. Each student learns differently, so teachers must adapt to the individual’s needs and circumstances.

“R” stands for “resources.” In order for the curriculum to be effective, South Korea aims to have the highest knowledge scores. In order to have all of the information required to teach effectively, teachers need enough resources.

“T” stands for “technology.” This shows the use of ICT—Information and Communications Technology—in South Korean schools’ curricula. Implementing technology and technology education into the education system digitalized South Korea’s curriculum to reflect the modern age.

Technology Education in South Korean Schools

Approximately 98% of Korean households use the Internet each day. Two-thirds of these households use smartphones. In addition, 5% of South Koreans say that they use their smartphones for at least eight hours each day. This is especially prominent among young Koreans between the ages of 5 and 19.

South Korea has been thoroughly implementing technology curricula into the country’s secondary level education. This decision originally occurred in 1969 due to the quick economic growth and technological advances in the country. Through focusing on middle and high school students, technology can have an impact on societal progress.

South Korea has the fastest internet speed and the widest access to the internet across the globe. This has contributed to the country’s successes related to technological advancement. Through incorporating technology into their education system, the country has continued to flourish and progress.

ICT Education

People across South Korea started utilizing Information and Communications Technology, or ICT, in 2005. The aims of the use of ICT are to strengthen the educational system, to further science and technology and to adapt to the rapid changes in the economy, society and science. In working toward reaching this goal, South Korea is constantly learning about advances in technology and having researchers and scientists developing new technology, as the interviewee told The Borgen Project.

In the classroom, one can see this in how students do not learn through the traditional methods of blackboards and textbooks. Schools have included ICT at all levels of the education system to develop a new generation of learners.

Professor Jeong Rang Kim of the Department of Computer Education at Gwangju National University described how, in order to strengthen students’ learning capacity, schools focus on the four C’s: critical thinking and problem-solving, collaboration, character and communication.

These skills are to help students adapt quickly and be ambitious. Not only did society quickly adopt ICT, but it is also part of many Koreans’ individual lives. A common Korean phrase is “pali-pali,” which means “quick and quicker.”

Impact on Poverty

Before the establishment of the government of the Republic of Korea, Korea struggled with poverty. Now, it has become the world’s top 15th economic stronghold. Part of this is due to the promise of free, high-quality education for everybody, regardless of socioeconomic status; South Korea is aware of the importance of UNESCO’s “Education for All” initiative.

In addition to this, no matter how much money a student’s family has, each person has the entitlement to have skilled teachers. Becoming a teacher in South Korea is a career with high esteem, as the interviewee described.

High academic achievement sets up students for future career success. This, in turn, helps students break the cycle of poverty and build a financially secure life for themselves. By giving equal access to education, students will be more likely to get into universities and get a college degree. Furthermore, excellent education results in employees with special skills and a highly educated populace.

Going forward, individuals will continue to place a greater value on education that includes technology in South Korean schools. This results in future generations becoming more and more invested in their education, further establishing their financial security and stability.

– Miranda Kargol
Photo: Flickr

UnivocaNorth Korean defectors are Koreans who have fled North Korea seeking asylum in South Korea or other nations, mainly due to “political, ideological and economic reasons.” When North Korean defectors flee to South Korea, one particular challenge they endure is the language barrier. The two Koreas once shared a common language, but after years of conflict, the languages today are much different. The Univoca app, designed in South Korea’s capital city of Seoul, is a South Korean-North Korean translator app that has proven useful for learning new vocabulary to helps bridge the linguistic divide. Bridging the linguistic divide helps North Korean defectors better transition to living in South Korea.

Korean Dialects

The North Korean language has always remained the same. It is known as Chosŏnŏ, whereas Hangugeo is the language of South Korea. The alphabet is the same but there are visual variations in terms of spacing, connection and appearance. Some words look completely different but most of the difference is in the dialect and pronunciation.

The developing democratic nation of South Korea frequently pokes fun at the northern dialect in comedy acts for seeming “quaint or old-fashioned. The government of the north, is of a hereditary nature as it is a family dictatorship that some often call a “hereditary dictatorship.” North Korea does not allow anything to stray from its traditional and conservative history. Defectors that have fled to South Korea often flee in a desperate attempt to leave their pasts behind them and begin a new life that does not involve dictatorship. Univoca, short for unification vocabulary, helps bridge linguistic barriers.

After the arduous journey to South Korea, many defectors describe the struggle with the language to be one of the biggest hardships. North Koreans can only understand about half of the language in South Korea. Defectors compare the transition to learning an entirely new language. Although they are eager to start a new life, the language barrier makes transitioning difficult.

The Univoca Translation App

South Korean teachers are hopeful that the Univoca app will help new defector students better understand their learning material. This, in turn, should help them progress in their educational endeavors. Univoca offers some independence from constantly relying on others to teach and translate the language.

The developers of Univoca’s dictionary deliberately and considerably chose the first 3,600 words of Univoca’s dictionary. Co-developer, Jang Jong-chul said, “We first showed this typical South Korean grammar textbook to a class of teenage defectors who picked out the unfamiliar words.” The creators also consulted older North Korean people to help with producing accurate translations.

Univoca users are able to type in the unknown word or scan a photo of it with a cellphone camera. The app then produces the appropriate translation. Univoca also offers commonly used phrases to guide users through basic activities such as ordering food off of a menu or asking for directions. Subscribers are able to add suggestions of words that they would like Univoca to add to the dictionary. This leaves room for a continually growing translation app.

The Univoca translation app is a simple solution with a tremendous impact. Univoca helps North Koreans transition to life in South Korea by offering assistance with the linguistic barriers that present themselves.

Sarah Ottosen
Photo: Flickr