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Ensure older people can live with dignity

Graphic: Older men in Korea sitting by the roadside

The Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea made the following statement as part of the International Day of Older Persons.

Population ageing is a global phenomenon, and Korea is also becoming an aged society with expanded life expectancy and low birth rate. The UN predicts that the number of people aged 60 or older will increase from the current rate of 18.5% to 41.5% in 2050.

However, the prospect for an ageing Korea is not that bright. In 2013, 47.2% of older people were living in poverty, a figure well above the OECD average of 12.8%. Moreover, Korea ranks first in relation to death caused by suicide among older persons.

In addition, according to the 2015 Global Age Watch Index by the HelpAge International, Korea ranks 60 among 96 countries in terms of the social and economic status of older persons.

The Constitution of Korea states that every person has the right to live with dignity, and the State bears an obligation to guarantee basic human rights.

Such rights and dignity should not be degraded because of one's age. However, in Korea, a number of older persons are faced with various issues including poverty, suicide, abuse, discrimination and social exclusion.

In order to address such issues, it is time to move beyond an approach which views older people as subjects of charity and welfare. We must have an approach that guarantees human rights and dignity.

Against this backdrop, the NHRCK hosted a symposium on human rights of older persons on 2 October 2015 to discuss issues related to discrimination against and care for older persons.

The NHRCK also plans to host the ASEM Conference on Global Ageing and Human Rights of Older Persons from 26 to 28 October, in Seoul, Korea. The conference will bring together ASEM members, representatives from the UN, EU, ASEAN, NGO and academia. The discussions will consider the rights of older persons to health, social security, work and freedom from violence and abuse.

We will continue to host such symposiums, panel discussions and conferences to raise awareness of the issues, identify improvement measures and cooperate with the international community for protection and promotion of the human rights of older persons

Date: 2 October 2015

Source: National Human Rights Commission of Korea

Image credits

  1. Older men in Korea sitting by the roadside - Bea, Flickr; http://bit.ly/1RtFNvr