Friday, April 10, 2009

The state of the youth in 2009

[Update 3: Via Brian in Jeollanam-do's post on the high cost of education in Korea is this article about the percentage of students who go to hagwons:
According to research by the education ministry, 88 percent of elementary school students, 78 percent of middle school students and 63 percent of high school students attend private crammers [hagwons].
Also, this article looks at the porn watching habits of teenagers:
[A]ccording to a survey conducted last December on 338 people aged between 13 and 18 by the Korea Communications Standards Commission [...] 35.7 percent of respondents said they have watched online pornography. Of those, 95.8 percent did so at home, followed by at school (2 percent), in internet cafes (1.1 percent), and at friends' homes (0.6 percent). In terms of the daily time spent watching porn, 43.8 percent said 15 minutes or less, 27.7 percent 15 to 30 minutes, 19.3 percent a half to an hour, and 5.4 percent one to two hours.
It was obvious more than a decade ago that Korean teens needed better sex education, but they're still not getting it.]

[Update 2: The Joongang Ilbo reports on the higher addiction rates of poor children to online games:
In 2007, 4.6 percent of poor kids were hooked on gaming, whereas only 1.6 percent of middle-class kids were. Nine out of 10 of the poor children who get basic living expenses from the government have their own computer at home - computers provided by local educational offices and governments.
Another article also looks at how "National college entrance examination scores vary according to region, school type and gender, with students from larger cities often performing better than those from smaller towns."]

[Update: Via the Marmot's Hole, the Hankyoreh looks at statistics for teens giving birth (it's sad, considering the final story of this post, that "
87% indicated that they would like to continue their education but are unable to gain readmission to a secondary school"), while Brian in Jeollanam-do looks at the estimate that 50% of children born in the countryside will be biracial by 2020.]

At the end of February, the Korea Times looked at a study done of teens:
According to research [by the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs] on 14,716 middle and high school students and 1,597 teenagers in correctional facilities, some children started to view pornographic material online or buy it when they were 11-12 years old. A study conducted five years ago had the age at 14, the ministry said.

About 19 percent of non-juvenile delinquents had smoked with 22 percent of these starting when they were 13 years old, or middle school juniors. About 37 percent had consumed alcohol with 17 percent starting at the age of 12.

About 5 percent of males and 2 percent of females had experienced sex ― the first experiences taking place at 13 for females and 14 for males. Sexual activity jumped to 44 percent for juvenile delinquents, half of whom said they smoked every day, almost double the smoking rate of adults.[...]
More than 52 percent of respondents said sex education at school has little or no effect on their ideas toward sex[.]
As for younger students,
according to Kid's Hankooki Ilbo, 63 percent of 286 elementary school seniors have boyfriends or girlfriends. More than 4 percent of the 11 year-olds said they had "French kissed'' with their friends, and said it helps them to feel less lonely and much more bonded.
Weeks later, the Korea Times again reported on this study, this time looking at sex:
According to the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, 544 out of 14,716 middle and high school students nationwide, or 3.7 percent, have had sexual intercourse. About 15 percent of them were involved in pregnancy, showing that sex education or campaigns aren't as effective as they should be.

About 8.6 percent of respondents said they had no problem with selling sex to adults. [...] About 5.3 percent said they were offered opportunities to participate in the sex trade, mainly in online chat rooms, and brokers were sometimes involved. Teenagers also sometimes made lewd calls to illegal "talking clubs'' but the Internet was the main attraction, the ministry said.
This made me chuckle:
Experts have been criticizing the government for not making sufficient efforts to prevent such sexual activity. [...] The ministry has set up a series of measures to deal with teenage sex and related crimes.
While I realize it's referring to teen prostitution, I find it amusing that some think the government should be out to put a stop to teen sex, and the phrase 'teenage sex and related crimes,' while obviously an awkward translation, is also unintentionally amusing ('Will the crime of teen sex ever end?' cries some distraught expert).

The Segye Ilbo reported on another survey and turned up some interesting results. South Korea's National Youth Policy Institute surveyed 2368 male and female students and found the following:

35% had had physical contact such as hugging with a friend of the opposite sex, and 20.1% said the experience was a kiss. The percentage of students who said they were sexually experienced was 4.1%. 1.6% had had sex forced upon them, while 2.3% of middle school students and 6.2% of high school students had been kissed against their will.

2.7% had the experience of forcibly demanding sex – 1.8% of male middle school students and 3.8% of male high school students.

65% of boys and 78% of girls said they should be virgins before marriage, but if they had promised to marry, then premarital sex was okay for 56.9% of boys and 42.8% of girls.
27.3% of middle school students and 30% of high school students agreed it was true that if a girl says she doesn’t want sex she’s just pretending and actually wants you to be forceful with her.

21% of female high school students agreed that the single way to make girls sexually excited is to use violence. 21.9% of middle school students and 24% of high school students agreed that women feel sexually stimulated when men handle them roughly.

Well, there you go then. The article blames the media and its images of men using violence for such responses. One wonders if these attitudes are related to this?

An article at looks at the use of "harmful media" by youth, and finds that 1 in 3 had had some experience with such media. 35.9% of youth used pornographic sites, compared to 32.7% in 2007. 37.3% had seen Adult videos or movies compared to 33.4% in 2007. 29.6% had read adult comics while 41.8% had watched over 19 broadcasting. 44.1% had used adult games, and 37% had used adult gambling sites, a rise of 8.6% and 5.0 % respectively. 47.3% had experienced trading game items online (though I'm not sure why this is bad). E-today also provided a chart, which I translated (click to enlarge):

It would seem the first year of middle school is when students really start getting up to no good, though loads of elementary school kids play over-19 computer games (like Sudden Attack), as the results show. I was curious what 'Pon-ting', or phone meeting/dating actually entailed, and this Hanguk Ilbo article takes a lengthy look at (the photos make it not safe for work). It's essentially phone sex, and the article estimates 1,000,000 men have been made 'victims' by using psychological tactics to take advantage of them. Video phone sex is also apparently growing.

The article at also mentioned that 10.8 % smoked, 53.7 % drank, and that the number of runaway youth increased 12.8 % this year. A January 30 Chosun Ilbo article titled "Runaway Teens Most Vulnerable to Youth Sex Trade" looked at runaways:
A sex trade report on teenagers revealed some 80 percent of those involved in the youth sex trade between July and December last year were runaway teens. The report was released by the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs on Thursday. There is a pattern of hard-up runaway teens becoming engaged in the sex trade. The 36 incidences that occurred during the first half of 2008 increased to 69 during the second half.

A ministry official said, "About half, or 44.4 percent, of teens involved in the sex trade say they only do it to earn money for living expenses. Very few are engaged in the sex trade to earn bread for their family, but most of them do it to live after running away from home."

However, the government has nearly no countermeasures to prevent young runaways from getting involved in sex trade. There are only 77 welfare shelters for runaway teenagers nationwide. Moreover, those places only provide them with temporary accommodation and meals, but fail to offer solutions that help send them back home and to school.

The government's monitoring of web-based chat rooms is negligible, even though up to 95 percent of youth sex trade occurs online. Only three ministry officials monitor internet sites, hundreds of which appear and disappear every day.
Over a year ago I posted several Korea Times and Korea Herald articles about youth from the late 1990s. The first article looked at runaways (and the second article looked at rise in the number of (mostly runaway) girls working at unlicenced night spots). In the first article from August 1995 we were told that in 1991 the number of runaways crossed the 10,000 mark for the first time, and by 1994 the number was 11,363 (girls outnumbered boys 5,935 to 5,428). At the time the Times wrote that "the absence of proper facilities to protect teenage delinquents is cited as a serious problem in Korea, as proved by YMCA statistics, showing that 71.4 percent of runaway teenagers are making their living at adult entertainment facilities."

This article reads in Google that "In 2001, the number of runaways in South Korea reached 61319 youths (23577 males and 37742 females), an increase likely due to the fallout from the 1997 financial crisis. A great many girls taking part in wonjo gyoje (which I looked at here, here and here) were likely a part of this demographic. At any rate, Korea is once again the middle of an economic downtown, and once again the number of runaways is increasing. In January the Joongang Ilbo's English edition posted three articles about today's runaways, suggesting the number may be around 50,000.

The first article begins with the story of a 17 year-old girl named 'Seo-yeon' (above), whose mother left home after losing her job during the Asian financial crisis in 1997, leaving her to be raised by her uncle, who lost his job recently due to the most recent financial crisis, and whose violent behavior after this led her to run away. We're told that
The number of children in low-income families who had suffered economic hardship in the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s are today facing new woes. Of 15 runaway teenagers that JoongAng Ilbo reporters interviewed, 12 had backgrounds similar to Seo-yeon’s. [...]

According to a Korea Youth Shelter Association survey conducted in December 2007 of 735 runaway teenagers who used its shelters that month, 50 percent said they had lived with a single parent after their parents divorced. Twenty-five percent said they lived with grandparents or relatives. The rest had lived with their parents.

The survey found common points - most respondents first ran away from home at age 14 and continued coming back and running away more than eight times on average. The main reason that drove them away from home was their families’ tough economic situation. Other reasons for leaving were family troubles, mostly violence or divorce.

In most cases, the kids slept in Internet cafes and jjimjilbang or 24-hour fast-food restaurants. In the worst cases, when they didn’t have money, they slept in parks, apartment boiler rooms, comic shops, public toilets and on apartment roofs. [...]

The government currently runs 77 children’s welfare centers across the country to support such teenagers. Those shelters accommodate some 13,000 runaway teenagers annually. But the facilities are not sufficient to meet the escalating number of runaway teenagers. Police estimate that there could be 50,000 runaways.

In theory, runaways can stay up to two years in each facility. In practice, stays are much shorter and many teenagers usually move from facility to facility. Such circumstances make it difficult for kids to remain in school. Most reportedly quit school regardless of their will to study. Their priority is finding a suitable place to stay and something to eat.[...]

As most are deprived of educational opportunities, life on the streets is tough, they said. They are not able to find permanent work as they lack both sufficient education and skills. They instead work part-time at gas stations, fast-food restaurants, coffee shops or delivering newspapers and leaflets. Some girls start working at room salons (hostess bars). [...]

According to a survey conducted by Nam Mi-ae, a social welfare studies professor at Daejeon University, 78 percent of teenagers who used the welfare facilities said they at one time or another begged for money from strangers. Thirty-one percent said they had stolen money. And 8.5 percent responded that they had sold sex.
The next article, "Some teens prefer shelters to home," begins with the story of a 14 year old girl in Geumcheon Youth Center, and quotes Lee Ki-yeong, director of Seoul Children’s Welfare Center:
It takes them one to two months to fully recover and settle into the new environment, she said. “As their guardian keeps changing from mother to grandmother, and then grandmother to shelter counselor, it hurts their self-esteem,” she said. The center serves as a gateway connecting such children and teenagers to orphanages supported by the city. The center takes care of them for up to three months until it finds them suitable orphanages that will care for them until they turn 18.

In these troubled times, a growing number of parents who have lost their jobs or businesses leave their children with the center. The number of children being cared for at the center between October and December last year skyrocketed to 188 from 74 during the same period in 2007, according to Seoul Children’s Welfare Center run by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. [...]

Lee said many parents send children to the facility promising the counselors that they will take their children back when the economy improves. However, she said cases where that actually happens are extremely rare. “It’s better for children to quickly adapt to a new environment, so we normally send children to long-term childcare facilities [orphanages] after they’ve spent about one to two months here,” Lee said.
The article looks at some children who say they are living more comfortably in the orphanage than they did with their parents, as well as experts who call for such long-term care facilities to be expanded. The third article looked at the mental health of teens:
Lee Kyeong-yeong, a social welfare worker at the Seoul Child and Adolescent Mental Health Center, which is supported by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and operated by the Seoul National University Hospital, said nine out of 10 parents with mentally ill children reject [offers for free counseling].

“For a full recovery, children need to receive treatment for more than six months. But the parents can’t afford to pay, as it costs hundreds of thousands won per month,” said Lee.

According to a study conducted by the Community Childcare Center Association last year, the 15,709 children from low-income families who were tested were more likely to suffer from uneasiness, depression, delinquent behavior and aggression than children from families without serious money problems. [...]

“Failure to receive proper treatment in time will lead such children to lag behind in class and become juvenile delinquents, which will later become an object of public concern,” said Professor Kim Bung-nyeon of Seoul National University Hospital’s child psychiatry department.
To be sure, underage crime has been on the rise, with a number of shocking cases making news in recent months. Several teens in Seongnam tortured and beat their mentally handicapped friend to death and secretly buried her last month. Another group of runaway teens were arrested last month in Gimpo:
The adolescents, seven male and two female, are accused of forcing two teenage girls to take their clothes off and filming them naked. The suspects allegedly threatened to upload the videos to the Web if the girls tried to run away or refused to participate in prostitution. They were not forced to sell sex, however. Last month, the suspects lured [the] two runaway teenagers, surnamed Lee and Ahn, both 16, to a motel by offering them a place to sleep via the Internet. They then locked the victims in.[...]

All nine suspects were captured on March 9. They are accused of committing the same crime on a 14-year-old middle school girl, identified only by the surname Paik, in October last year. Paik was held captive for two months, sexually assaulted and forced to prostitute herself 60 times.

News photos and clips are here. They didn't just film them naked - the two girls involved forced the two victims to bow before them and chant and hit each other with their fists and shower shoes, conducting it like some kind of twisted symphony. In reading the accounts of it, it's hard not to be reminded of punishment students receive in school. The Korea Times tells us that
Internet users were shocked by the case, and the rage increased after one of the accused girls said about making the two girls hit each other, "If I hit them, my hands hurt.’’

Bloggers are calling for harsh punishments, saying that lenient penalties on teenagers are resulting in repeated serious crime among them.
That story was also looked at by Korea Beat. Another video which got a lot of attention recently was that of a group of girls in Incheon who repeatedly kicked a classmate in the face.

I've looked at this kind of youth group violence before. The Korea Times related more of the story, noting that the girls were barely punished by the school for the beating, and that it was now only an issue since the video was spread online:
The case shocked Internet users. However, the offender responded with hostility. On her Web site, she said, "You don't know me at all, who do you think I am? Why do you bring up things that happened in February?'' She added, "There's nothing you can do anyway. I'm only 13 years old and they can't send me to juvenile reformatory.''
What a charming young lady. Korea Beat also translated a few other stories related to teenagers. In one, three teenaged boys were arrested along with a 15 year-old girl in Busan. The reason was because the girl asked the boys to rape her 14 year-old classmate as a favor, which they did. In another, a 16 year-old teen from the provinces was caught working at a massage parlor when police busted the place. Prostitution was her way of funding her move to, and life in Seoul.

Korea Beat also translated a Yonhap article about sexual misconduct by teachers in Chungcheongbuk-do (here)
; another article(in Korean) looks at recent youth crime in the province, focusing on Cheongju. On February 26 two female teens were gang raped by a group of teenage boys. 16 year old Kim and 4 others were arrested; one other was booked without detention.

The article mentions two other cases in which female students were raped by male students, with a 17 year-old arrested in one case, and a 15 year-old arrested in the other (along with 3 others being booked). In the latter case the victim’s attackers were classmates who had also molested her in front of other classmates at school. The article then mentions the boy beaten to death by classmates in Chungju last November.

The number of juvenile offenders on Chungcheongbuk-do has risen from 2,853 in 2006, to 3261 in 2007 to 3887 in 2008. Violent crimes increased 16% from 780 in 2007 to 908 last year.

To end on a happier note, the Joongang Ilbo tells us that the story of Seo-yeon, the 17 year-old runaway mentioned in their first article on runaways, has, at the time of publication, ended on a hopeful note.
After the JoongAng Ilbo’s three-part special report series, “Suffering teenagers,” was released in January reporters got a rush of inquiries from readers wanting to help Seo-yeon. Of them, a 41-year-old mother of two daughters, Kim Mi-yeong, an alias, made a tearful telephone call to a reporter. Choking up, she said she wanted to meet Seo-yeon and take care of her as her own child because Seo-yeon’s story reminded her of difficult days she encountered when she was around Seo-yeon’s age.

The reporter looked for Seo-yeon at the readers’ request, but later realized that she has vanished a day after her story was published. Her friends told the reporter that Seo-yeon was last seen at Seoul’s youth shelter on Jan. 15 and that had not heard from her since.[...]

Two weeks after, Seo-yeon managed to escape from runaway teenagers who had locked her in their one-room studio and beat her.
I really hope those teens weren't the ones mentioned above. Of course, if it wasn't them, then it was a group of teens who are starting to fit a rather unpleasant pattern of 'messed-up things done by runaway teens.' When Seo-yeon met her new guardian, and told her she wanted to go to school, it wasn't easy to find a school willing to take her.
Most principals turned down Kim’s request citing concerns that “she may be a bad influence to other students.” Being rejected for several times, Kim sometimes asked school officials why they could not accept a student who is really eager to study.

As the last ditch effort, Kim visited a school that her daughters had graduated from. That school, too, was reluctant to accept Seo-yeon. Kim, however, did not give up and tried again. Police officers who took charge of Seo-yeon’s missing person case accompanied her and pleaded with the school principal. Officers and Kim assured the principal that they will intervene at any time if Seo-yeon causes trouble. Seo-yeon was accepted.
I'm glad she was accepted in the end, but the attitudes of the principals who rejected her were unhelpful, to say the least.

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