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More elderly living alone

The number of elderly living alone increased over the past five years, a report showed Friday, adding to growing concerns over Korea’s rapidly aging population and its negative impact on the economy.

The report said the number of senior citizens living alone in Korea hit almost 1.37 million in 2015, nearly a 20 percent increase from 2011, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s report, which was released by Rep. Hwang In-ja of the Saenuri Party.

Senior citizens refer to those aged 65 or older.

The figure means one in five senior citizens lives alone and comprises 20 percent of the entire elderly population, which reached nearly 6,429,000 as of 2015.

By region, Gyeonggi Province topped the list, with about 203,000 senior citizens living alone, followed by Seoul with 181,000. Jeju Self-Governing Province had about 18,000 lone senior citizens ― the lowest on the list.

Incheon recorded the biggest growth rate of senior citizens living alone at 24.3 percent, while South Jeolla Province had the biggest ratio at nearly 30 percent.

According to the report from the Seoul City government, the number of senior citizens living alone will reach nearly 220,000 by 2030.

Elderly citizens living alone cited “convenience” as the main reason for why they chose to live by themselves. More than 35 percent of those seniors said “it is comfortable,” while 34 percent said “I want to live independently.” Some 23 percent said “I don’t want to be a burden,” according to the survey from Statistics Korea.

“The society as a whole should take the (elderly) issue seriously,” said Rep. Hwang In-ja. “Over the past five years, there is not a single region where the number of elderly living alone has decreased.

“The elderly issue is not a matter of individuals and households. It needs the public’s attention,” said Hwang.

By Yeo Jun-suk (