South Korea’s population is rapidly aging, with 12.7% of the current population aged 65 or more. And unfortunately, for this growing demographic, the outlook is dismal. With their roots in the Korean War and having worked to build the country up from the ashes, the elderly now stand at the front lines of a new battle.
According to data from Statistics Korea, 49.5% of Korea’s elderly lives in poverty, with the poverty rate for senior citizens being 3.5 times higher than the national average.
As South Korea developed, and more people moved to large cities, the extended family structure that supported the elderly began to fall apart. Fifteen years ago, 90% of children thought they should look after their parents in their old age.
Nowadays, this number has shrunk to 37%, leaving the number of Korean seniors living alone to grow exponentially.
Exacerbating the issue, the government has been clumsy in its efforts to placate this looming, unprecedented problem. South Korea’s retirement pension amounts to a shockingly meager W300,000 a month. More alarmingly, only about 35% of Korea’s elderly receive one.
The end result? Sixty percent or more of Korean senior citizens wish to be employed. Instead, many of them push carts, collect cardboard, beg, sell packets of gum, and live alone in squalor. With filial piety dying and the government playing catch up, the elderly are left to fend for themselves.