South Korea has been making headlines for the past two years with its declining birth rate and population. On top of these preexisting issues, the nation has to devise a solution to address the issue of South Korean youths who refuse to be social and go out into the world. This issue has been seen in Japan over the years, and they have named the situation Hikikomori. This Japanese term roughly translates to "to pull back." These Hikikomori are viewed as lonely or reclusive people in society.
The reason youths pull back from society and hide is a long list. Still, in South Korea, many are isolating themselves due to trauma, bullying, anxiety, stress, etc. The South Korean ministry also pointed out that some children are not receiving adequate care from their parents or guardians, and that may be another reason why some are choosing to avoid social interactions. The main reason South Korea is so worried about this situation is that its workforce is dwindling. With a low birth rate, the workforce starts substantially dropping if these youths do not go and get their education and subsequently get a job.
As of 2023, South Korea has a high rate of youth unemployment. At around 7%, they fear this rate will increase as the birth rate continues to decline. President Yoon declared this situation "a crucial national agenda." However, a lot will have to change in South Korean society if the government successfully convinces women to have more children. Raising a child costs a ton of money. On top of that, there are currently fewer jobs available, and housing prices are dramatically increasing. One of these very obvious issues needs to be corrected or changed for there to be any chance that Korea might get its birthrate above one.
The ministry has declared that around 350,000 people between the ages of 19 and 39 qualify for their solution to the "lonely youth" problem. Of this age category, 350,000 is about 3% of all 19 to 39 year olds. These young adults will be receiving a monthly allowance from the government that can be applied to living expenses, education, training, etc. This solution also includes an allowance for "cultural experiences." These children and adults typically come from disadvantaged backgrounds, so this allowance can allow them to rejoin society better. Those who qualify for the funding will receive it as cash or goods. If they are over 18, the money will be directly deposited into their bank account. However, if they are under 18, then the money will go to the parents to use for their children.
Other allowances under this act include funds for medical expenses, tuition, job support, mental health services, and even cosmetic surgery. The funds for cosmetic surgery are intended to allow youths to correct scars, tattoos, or "disfigurements" that they might feel make it harder to interact with their peers.
In conclusion, South Korea faces complex challenges, including a declining birth rate, a shrinking workforce, and a growing number of "lonely youths" who are withdrawing from society. The government addresses these issues by offering allowances and support services to those who qualify. It remains to be seen if these measures will be enough to reverse the trend of declining birth rates and re-engage isolated youths in society. Hopefully, this new plan will help create a supportive and inclusive community.
Edited by: Liz Coffman
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