[EDITORIALS]Ending poverty in KoreaThe fact that poverty is transmitted from generation to generation gives pain to poor parents. And society is responsible for that transmission. After enduring the 1997-98 foreign exchange crisis and globalization trends, our society has seen the gap between the rich and poor widen and seen the transmission of poverty emerge as a serious social issue. The children of poor families are now in desperate condition and cannot retreat further.
It will be an important test of our community’s health and good sense whether we can cultivate poor children, whose number is estimated at 1 million, into independent and reliable members of society. Society should shoulder the responsibility of uplifting poor children, and social ideas should be changed to regard poverty as an issue of human rights, and child welfare as an issue for all of us, as is true in other developed countries. Without such new thinking, the best government policies cannot be implemented, and concern by non-government sectors cannot be obtained.
Seoul will launch in July a child policy coordination committee composed of members from the government and private sectors with the prime minister as chairman. But the problems will not be solved immediately or only by issuing social welfare policies and establishing a committee. The government should deliberate about how to solve the most urgent problems of poor children through correctly understanding their situation. Right now, many teenagers are skipping lunch, after rejecting programs to feed poor students because of the contempt of their schoolmates.
The government should increase its spending on regional child welfare centers and expand the regular medical checkup services for poor children. Even more desperately needed is an education fund to help children in the low-income classes study without having to worry about tuition fees. Good education for poor children is the soundest investment to prevent poverty from being transmitted. The gap between the rich and poor is the dark shadow of the Korean economic miracle. As the world’s 12th-largest economy, Korea should help the weak in our society. Breaking the poverty transmission chain needs attention and effort from everyone.