05/07/2012, 00.00
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Child loneliness, the price for economic growth

by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
The reduction of the school week raises concerns. On Saturdays, many children do not eat because their parents are at work. Junk food becomes a major staple on the table, and students engage less in physical activity.

Seoul (AsiaNews) - South Korea's economic and financial success is having a negative impact on the family. More and more South Koreans invest their energies almost exclusively on work and studies. A recent survey indicates that because of a reduction in the school week from six to five days, three pupils in ten still spend Saturdays alone because both of their parents work.

In its survey of 1,523 fifth and sixth graders nationwide, the Korean Teachers' and Education Workers' Union (KTU) found that 27.9 per cent of students say, "I eat alone." Another 3.2 per cent answered, "I don't eat lunch." This suggests that around 110,000 of South Korea's 3.3 million elementary school students may be alone and not eating lunch on Saturdays.

"This situation was predicted last year when a study showed that 30 per cent of students' parents worked on Saturdays," KTU spokesperson Son Chung-mo said. For this reason, "The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology needs to take action at once by having local service centres distribute lunches on Saturdays".

Other research findings show that one in five middle school students does not eat breakfast at least five days out of the week.

The worst results are in middle schools, where 18.3 per cent of students said they missed breakfast at least five days a week. The same answer was given by 11.7 per cent of elementary school students.

Students were also found to eat more and more junk food and to be less physically active. Only 45.5 per cent of middle school students said they engaged in physical activity.

This is a major problem for a country that is a rising industrial and technological powerhouse in Asia even when compared to China and India.

South Korea's success in areas like cars and phones is thus undermining the family. The Church had warned against this danger, urging families to return to the values of sharing to go forward.


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