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  • » 02/14/2006, 00.00

    SOUTH KOREA

    Number of homeless up

    Theresa Kim Hwa-young

    It is the highest figure since 2001. The Health Ministry wants to set up new free health clinics but critics argue more is needed.

    Seoul (AsiaNews) – The number of homeless people in South Korea is up. The Health and Welfare Ministry reported 4,722 homeless, 2,763 living in 101 public shelters across the country. The problem is generating concern since it is the highest number registered since 2001, up by 256 over the previous year. Still the figure is lower than in the late 1990s when the country was in the midst of an economic recession. In 1999, the number of homeless people was as high as 6,300.

    However, the authorities believe that the current data are inaccurate. It fails to take into account the many sick people who are reluctant to provide personal information. Moreover, ministry officials have acknowledged losing trace of many people who were under treatment last year.

    Most homeless people (77 per cent) live in South Korea's two largest cities: 3,200 in Seoul and 460 in Pusan.

    In the capital more than a thousand people have signed up for a city plan to hire the homeless in the construction industry.

    The Health Ministry also plans to provide free health care to them. According to its data, about 40 per cent suffers from chronic diseases, alcohol abuse and mental problems.

    At present, there are four free health care clinics, but the only one addressing the needs of mental patients is located in the capital.

    In January a survey of 1,900 people revealed that 12 per cent of homeless needed urgent treatment against tuberculosis and infectious diseases.

    "The problem is the government is unable to provide economic opportunities and is only using stop gap measures," said Kim Jung-hyun, from Human Rights Coalition.

    For Kim and other critics of government policy, the authorities are unable to manage the problem and the growing gap between haves and have-nots is only going to make matters worse.

    "The government has shut down 9 of the existing 64 shelters, and many people have been forced into the street. But even if the shelters were made more accessible, it would only improve marginally the problem," he said. "We are conscious that government has limited resources, but it is also not implementing effective policies".

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    See also

    24/01/2014 SOUTH KOREA
    Seoul, card. Yeom among the sick and homeless: God has always loved you
    The prelate, who was appointed cardinal by Pope Francis, celebrated Mass in the village Eun-pyong, a shelter for the homeless and the sick run by Caritas Seoul: "I need your prayers, which are strong, because they are made under difficult circumstances."

    16/08/2007 NORTH KOREA – SOUTH KOREA
    Caritas Corea to help northern flood victims
    Mgr Lazarus You Heung-sik, president of the Catholic humanitarian agency, makes the announcement. He says that his organisation is waiting for an assessment before intervening. Red Cross reports more than 220 dead and 300,000 homeless people. Mountain deforestation is the main cause for the disaster.

    10/05/2006 SOUTH KOREA
    Low birth rate data released on Parents' Day
    Some 438,000 children were born last year, 8 per cent fewer than the year before, a sign that the country is aging. People over 65 are now 7 per cent of the population but will be 20 per cent in 2026.

    02/01/2014 SOUTH KOREA
    Seoul , man who set himself on fire to demand Park’s resignation dies
    The victim, identified only as Lee, held his demonstration on a flyover in the capital. In his last message before killing himself he asked the government to "tell the truth " about the electoral fraud of 2011 and the South Korean people to " stand up " for democracy .

    16/06/2008 SOUTH KOREA – UNITED STATES
    No deal between Washington and Seoul on beef imports
    The Seoul government asks for a ban on beef over 30 months old, because of the possible risks of mad cow disease. Imports began again in April after a four year stop.



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