Korea is becoming the most inhospitable place in the world for senior citizens, data suggest. One out of two senior citizens lives in poverty, while one in three to five suffers from abuse from their children or neighbors. And 160 out of every 100,000 senior citizens kill themselves to escape these conditions.
People who have neglected to prepare for their old age easily fall into poverty. The poverty rate among senior citizens stands at 45 percent, the highest among the 34 member nations of the OECD and twice as high as Japan (22 percent), Greece (23 percent) and the U.S. (24 percent), and 14 percentage points ahead of Iceland, which ranks second.
Abuse are also increasing. According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, there were 2,038 instances of abuse of senior citizens in 2005, but that rose 50 percent to 3,068 in 2010. There were many more requests for help like counseling and therapy due to abuse, rising from 13,836 cases in 2005 to 47,988 in 2010 or a 3.5-fold increase.
Abuse took various forms, ranging from physical violence and verbal abuse to neglect and abandonment. An investigation by the National Human Rights Commission showed that more than one out of every three senior citizens or 37.8 percent suffered from abuse and a study conducted early this year showed that one out of every five or 19.7 percent faced similar conditions, which is higher than the rates in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. (5-10 percent), according to the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs.
In such dismal conditions, the suicide rate among people over 75 is 160.4 people per 100,000, eight times higher than the OECD average, while the suicide rate among those between 65 and 74 is 81.8 per 100,000, the highest among the group of the world's richest countries. The reason Korea has the highest suicide rate in the world at 24.7 out of every 100,000 is because of the high suicide rate among senior citizens, a Statistics Korea official said.