[EDITORIALS]Wiping Out the Scourge of PovertyNo nation, no society is free from poverty, but it is the aspiration of every society that their posterity not live in poverty. Thus, it is with shock that we read the overall report written by this paper's investigative team on Nangok, Seoul's shanty town up in the hills in Sillim-dong, in the southern part of the city. During 70 days of reporting, we found a house where six families spanning four generations live huddled together, maintaining a standard of life just under the poverty line. The government has set a monthly income of 760,000 won ($577.5) for a three-member household as the minimum standard of living. We learned about children who are unable to go to school and often fall into crime.
Pushing Nangok further into the pit of poverty is the vicious cycle of little education, little income and short life span in the labor market, as most are manual laborers. Of the 200 men and women of Nangok that were surveyed, 119 or 65 percent said that they had not held down a job since 1997, except for community service jobs created by the government. It goes to show that the government has concentrated on doling out to the city's poor, instead of empowering them so they can help themselves escape poverty. There is also the perennial problem of not enough social workers. In the case of Nangok, one social worker is in charge of 1,400 persons. It is hard to expect many of these people will get job interviews.
We can not break the vicious cycle of poverty with these policies and institutions that barely function. The United States with its Head Start Program launched in 1965 has given educational and counseling assistance to children and parents of poverty. Japan has provided support in employment and childrearing through Angel Plan, which was implemented in 1994.
The first step to breaking the cycle is providing a comprehensive program with emphasis on education starting from infant stage, because education is the first step that can break the vicious cycle of poverty from being repeated. More nursery facilities for children must be built, and a self-help program for these people to stand up on their own, should be provided. And for these policies to succeed, the government and the private sector must concomitantly pool their efforts.