12/29/2008, 00.00
SOUTH KOREA
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Caritas Seoul opens supermarket for poor

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
Food and basic necessities donated by individuals and institutions are being given free of charge to 500 people. It is the fourth Food Market for the poor opened in Seoul by Caritas in the capital.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - A supermarket for the poor, where families and individuals can find food and basic necessities free of charge. It is called the Seongbuk Food Market, and is an initiative of Caritas Seoul. Inaugurated on December 18 with a ceremony presided over by Bishop Lucas Kim Woon-hoe, president of the charitable organization of the Catholic Church and auxiliary bishop of the capital, the store gathers donations from individuals, organizations, and institutions, given on behalf of the neediest.

As of today, the Seongbuk Food Market has assisted 500 people, who are able to take food and basic necessities free of charge once per month. Caritas Seoul intends to increase the number of its beneficiaries soon, thanks to an awareness-raising campaign that should lead to an increase in donations and in volunteers involved in the initiative.

The Food Market for the poor was inaugurated in mid-December, and is the fourth opened by Caritas in the capital. The three other centers of collection and distribution are operating in the districts of Hwagok, Yourak, and Gangseo.

In Seoul alone, 3,000 homeless people find assistance at the more than 40 meal distribution centers set up in the capital, mainly by charitable operations connected to religious groups (in the photo, a meal for the poor).

Poverty in the country is a phenomenon that still afflicts families, especially those in which there are elderly persons. According to data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 50% of people above the age of 65 live in a state of relative poverty. The cause is indicated in the country's retirement system, which does not guarantee subsistence for this segment of the population, representing 7% of the 49 million people in South Korea. The phenomenon involves urban areas above all, where 81% of the population lives, and in a special way Seoul, with its 10 million inhabitants.

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