More than 70,000 children and teenagers are identified as “homeless” in South Korea, wandering the streets or living in poor conditions, signaling an urgent need to enhance support for them.
Professor Lim Se-hee of Seoul Cyber University, speaking at a recent Children Policy Forum, reported that there were 73,399 homeless individuals under the age of 18.
Citing government data, the professor said that among them, 55,407 wander around with no place to spend the night after leaving their homes -- often due to parental abuse or negligence.
Although shelters exist, many homeless teens find it challenging to adapt to the rules of collective living or have conflicts with other members, she said, adding that she once met a teenager who slept on the stairs of funeral halls because he had nowhere else to go.
Of the 73,399 homeless teens, 16,698 were found to be living in “non-house” conditions, which encompass unconventional living spaces such as containers, greenhouses or motels. These young people often experience extreme poverty, she noted.
Another 1,272 homeless teens failed to find housing after being forced to leave public shelters upon turning 18 years old. The professor said that many young adults leaving public shelters encounter challenges in securing proper housing, and some seek employment in factories, which offer dormitory accommodations.
Lim said South Korea’s Framework Act on Residence should recognize homeless children and teens as vulnerable groups, and establish housing support for them. The Korean government's third comprehensive plan for children’s policy, set to be developed in 2024, should focus on identifying households with poor living conditions for children and implementing immediate support plans, she added.