Korea Lacks Housing Provisions for Fast-Aging Society

  • By Shin Su-ji

    September 18, 2023 08:22

    Signum Haus is a assisted living complex of 230 units for elderly residents in Jagok-dong in Seoul's upscale district of Gangnam, which is equipped with a healthcare facility, a fitness center, and cultural and recreational facilities and even provides hotel-style meals.
    There is a waiting list of four years for places at the exclusive facility.
    As of last year, there were only 39 living complexes for the elderly with a mere 8,840 housing units across Korea, much fewer than in Japan, which became the world's first super-aged society in 2006 and has 16,724 complexes with 634,395 residents.
    The figure in Korea is alarmingly low considering that its elderly population is about 9.27 million and growing fast.
    The statistics highlight just one aspect of how unprepared Korea is as its elderly population grows at the fastest pace in the world. Korea is expected to become a super-aged society by 2025, when more than 20 percent of the total population or 10 million people are over 65 years old. 
    That means it will have taken Korea just seven years to turn from an aged into a super-aged society, compared to 50 years in the U.K., 15 years in the U.S. and 10 tears in Japan.
    Many elderly people are complaining that they cannot find a place where they can enjoy leisure and retirement freely without putting a burden on their children.
    The government's budget for the aging population now stands at W27 trillion, but its policy focuses on helping elderly people in need and pays little attention to senior living communities (US$1=W1,326). 
    Regulations are not helpful enough to offer a wide variety of housing for the elderly. The current law only allows those who own both the land and the buildings to operate senior living facilities.
    Lee Ji-hee of the Korean Association of Housing for Senior Citizens said, "It's difficult for anyone to operate a senior living facility if they aren't a large company or a big hospital that has property of its own."
    "Housing policy for middle-income seniors is a dead zone," said Prof. Yoo Sun-jong at Konkuk University. "We need to increase private housing supply by giving interested developers more tax benefits or soft loans."  
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