South Korea

SOS Children’s Villages ensures that children grow up with the care, protection and relationships they need to become their strongest selves (symbolic photo: Judith Buethe).

The Republic of Korea, also known as South Korea, is an East Asian nation on the southern half of the Korean Peninsula and is home to over 51.7 million people. The nation’s only land border, shared with North Korea, is one of the world’s most heavily militarized borders. South Korea is a nation of contrasts, known for both its countryside and Buddhist temples as well as its high-tech cities. Over 80% of the population live in urban centers. In fact, almost a fifth of the population live in Seoul, the country’s capital with almost 10 million inhabitants.

SOS Children’s Villages has been supporting children and young people without parental care, or at risk of losing it, in South Korea since the 1960s.

Children are at risk

In South Korea’s aging population, there are 7.5 million children aged 0-17 years, equating to 15% of the population. In the past 20 years, the country has experienced a dramatic rise in reports of child abuse, exceeding 30,000 cases in 2019 alone. In addition, a significant number of child deaths due to physical violence involved children under 24 months old. Over 80% of child abuse cases involve the child’s parents, with many thinking that corporal punishment is “necessary for good parenting”. Until 2021, parents had a legal right to beat their children in the name of discipline.
1 in 5
Adults need livelihood support


Nationally, 1 in 10 children are at risk of poverty however, 1 in 5 people in their 20s and 30s are receiving basic livelihood support. This equates to 250,000 young adults, with many feeling that they will never escape poverty. As a result, the number of young adults in their 20s seeking help for depression has more than doubled in the past 5 years. Young people suffering from poverty are less likely to establish independence and self-reliance, whilst facing a greater risk of social isolation and mental health challenges.

7 in 10
Children attend cramming schools


Students face pressure in preparing for entrance exams. As a result, almost 70% of children attend cramming schools, adding almost 5hrs to their school week. Over two thirds of children report feeling stressed every day as they struggle to keep up with assignments and have little interaction with their parents. Academic stress can have harmful consequences on children’s physical and mental health, increasing blood pressure, causing illness, and increasing the likelihood of them developing anxiety or depression.

Young people are economically inactive


The national unemployment rate is around 3%, however young people are more than twice as likely to be out of work. With more than 1.5 million young people who are not in employment, education, nor training, over 500,000 of whom are not looking for work, the prospects for many young people looks challenging. Young people who are out of work and education have decreased well-being, greater social isolation and lack opportunities to gain and improve their skills. This exacerbates employment and socio-economic challenges.

Together we can make a difference for children in South Korea

Adults and children
Are supported in the community
Children and young people
Are supported through our education programmes
Children and young people
Grow up in our care
Young people
Are supported on their way to independence
(Symbolic photo: Katerina Ilievska).