The number of homeless in Korea has increased 17.5 percent in the past two years, a recent survey shows. According to data submitted by the Ministry of Health and Welfare to lawmaker Rhee Mok-hee last week, the figure stood at 4,921 as of June this year, up from 4,187 in 2010.
The number of homeless who live on the streets, rather than in shelters or in similar facilities provided by the government, skyrocketed 66.2 percent from 1,074 to 1,785 over the same period.
By region, Seoul has the largest number of homeless people with 3,304. Next came Busan (415), followed by Gyeonggi Province (347) and Daegu (284).
The capital saw a whopping 67.1 percent rise from 2,671 homeless people to 3,304 over the two-year period. Of those, the number of street dwellers climbed 160 percent from 393 in 2011 to 1,022 this year.
The rapid rise indicates a jump in the number of people experiencing economic difficulties due to the recession, which prompt a wider polarization of wealth, greater unemployment and a stagnant property market.
However, the Seoul Metropolitan Government attributed the rise to the difference in the scope of the survey. It used to be conducted mainly in areas like Seoul Station or Yongsan Station, where homeless people concentrate, but this year it hired over 150 people to cover more than 25 administrative districts of the capital and obtain more accurate results.