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South Korea pledges to tackle homelessness

The Ministry of Health and Welfare on Wednesday said that it would tackle homelessness by focusing on providing housing units and medical care, and helping the homeless find jobs.

Homeless people take shelter underground at the Seoul Station subway. (photo: Lee Won-yul/The Korea Herald)
Homeless people take shelter underground at the Seoul Station subway. (photo: Lee Won-yul/The Korea Herald)

Bae Byung-joon, director general of the Health Industry Bureau at the Welfare Ministry, said that the ministry would swiftly carry out countermeasures to reduce the number of homeless people and help them live independently.

According to the ministry’s data, there are more than 11,340 homeless people here as of 2016, including 6,192 who live in temporary dwellings. Among them, 64 percent are unemployed people whose main income came from basic livelihood security pensions.

The Welfare Ministry’s move is in line with President Moon Jae-in’s pledge to address social inequality, especially among women, youths and groups deemed vulnerable. It aims to help such people live independently by providing them with free medical care through 260 designated local hospitals.

Around 40 percent of the homeless said they are concerned about their health as there is limited or no medical aid available, according to the ministry. Another 30 percent said they have experienced mental health issues, including depression and alcoholism.

The government is set to increase rental housing for homeless people from the current 60 housing units provided each year.

The ministry’s data estimates that public shelter facilities were the most common place for the homeless to live (73.9 percent), followed by streets (15.2 percent).

Other measures to help homeless people include providing job training programs offered by the Ministry of Employment and Labor to help them find jobs and free legal consultation at homeless facilities to prevent human rights abuse.

By Bak Se-hwan (sh@heraldcorp.com)
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