▲ Kodoksa affects senior citizens who live alone
People are currently dying from solitude throughout the country. Kodoksa is a term meaning those who meet their death alone, so their death is usually discovered very late, sometimes even after the body has become a skeleton. Kodoksa takes on various forms and characteristics. In the past, the focus was on the elderly, but recently young adults and middle-aged people have also been suffering from it. It also happens to people who lose their jobs. There are even more forms of Kodoksa that are not related to age nor economic level these days and as a result, its growing scale is now emerging as a serious social problem in Korea.
In Korea, the rate of Kodoksa is approximately estimated through statistics of unattended deaths. Currently, the Ministry of Health and Welfare is aggregating stats of unattended deaths where there is no known family, address, job and identity of the victims. It is not classified as unattended death if there is any family presence. Therefore, the figures don’t accurately reflect the actual circumstances of Kodoksa. According to unattended death statistics from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, it has increased from 682 cases in 2011 to 1,232 cases in 2016. In particular, the number of people aged 65 and older has increased by 2,2 times over five years. This statistic shows that the rate of Kodoksa per year is increasing.
A general analysis suggests that Kodoksa increases with demographic causes such as aging and single households. Korea’s population structure is influenced by a low birthrate and aging society. In addition, the elderly who live apart from their families because of economic difficulties are increasing rapidly. Next is the growth of single households. Because of urbanization and civilization, many conveniences have grown and the stress of human relationships affecting the number of people living alone has increased. It is easier for them to be exposed to Kodoksa because they are unable to be helped when they are physically or mentally challenged. According to data from the National Statistical Office, the number of one-person households totaled 556,000 units by 2017, estimated to reach 8.1 million in 2045.
Nevertheless, as mentioned above, it is difficult to grasp the exact rate. The reason is because the government doesn’t regard ‘solitude’ as a cause of death such as heart disease or other causes. There is no governmental official data and studies have not been conducted to treat the problem. There is also no conceptual definition of law or policy yet making a more difficult situation even after their death.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare is enforcing Kodoksa prevention business such as old-age care services, emergency care and living caregivers for those who live alone, but the current preventative care programs are concentrated on older adults while young adults and middle-aged people tend to value private life differently unlike older adults or prefer not to communicate with neighbors. Therefore, it is emphasized to prepare social safety programs. Busan and Jeju are planning to establish services to connect welfare needs of single households.
Experts say that ‘social isolation’ is a problem. They point out that a regional community safety net is needed to restore a severed human relationship for preventing Kodoksa. We also need to care for our relationships with others and examine the excessive individualistic behavior of our society. At present, the government is needed to come up with specific age-matched measures and we should have more interest in our neighbors and try to understand their feelings.
By Park Seon-gyeong, cub reporter
Park Seon-gyeong, cub reporter email@example.com
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