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.
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.
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.
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.