South Korea Offers $500 a Month to Help Reclusive Youths Reconnect with Society

In a groundbreaking move, the South Korean government is offering $500 a month to “reclusive lonely young people” to help them reintegrate into society and get their lives back on track. Announced on Wednesday by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, the new initiative will provide reclusive youths aged 9 to 24 with up to 650,000 won (approximately $500) per month, encouraging them to leave their homes, return to school, or seek employment.

The funds, which can be used for living expenses, school supplies, and cultural experiences, will be deposited into the bank accounts of the youths’ parents or grandparents if they are under 18 years old. This innovative program is part of South Korea’s broader Youth Welfare Support Act and aims to help disadvantaged youths suffering from “hikikomori,” a term originating in Japan that describes extreme social withdrawal.

South Korea isn’t alone in facing this issue, as Japan has nearly 1.5 million youths experiencing hikikomori. According to the South Korean ministry’s report, around 350,000 Koreans aged 19 to 39 are considered “reclusive lonely young people,” with many coming from low-income families. Personal trauma, bullying, academic stress, family conflict, or inadequate care from parents or guardians may lead these youths to isolate themselves from society at a young age.

The ministry highlighted the importance of “active support” for these youths, who may experience slower physical growth due to irregular living and unbalanced nutrition, as well as mental difficulties like depression due to a lack of social roles and delayed adaptation.

However, some experts argue that this policy, while beneficial, is not a long-term solution to South Korea’s population crisis. With the country expected to become one of the world’s most aged nations by 2044, the government has spent over $200 billion in the past 16 years on various efforts to boost the population. Despite introducing measures like monetary baby allowances, foreign and low-cost nannies, and extended paid paternity leaves, the birth rate remains low.

South Korea’s innovative initiative to help reclusive youths reconnect with society is a commendable effort to address a pressing issue. While it might not be a long-term solution to the population crisis, it represents a crucial step towards improving the lives of thousands of young people in need of support.

Written by Robert D