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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Facts About Hunger in South Korea

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

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

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

– Isha Madan
Photo: Flickr