S. Korean Recluses to Nab $500 a Month

Payments meant to help 'hikikomori' reintegrate into society
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 13, 2023 5:55 PM CDT
South Korea to Pay Recluses $500 a Month to Leave the House
A man looks at his smartphone, seated on the floor of a small apartment.   (Getty Images/Fajar Kholikul Amri)

South Korea's government will offer $500 per month to young recluses in a push to get them to leave their homes. As Bloomberg reports, the country's Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced a measure Tuesday that could see thousands of dollars put toward education, job counseling, and health support for the so-called "hikikomori." The popularized Japanese term used in South Korea refers to both a person with acute social withdrawal, who rarely if ever leaves their home, and their condition. Coined by Japanese psychologist Saito Tamaki in 1998, it "essentially means 'to pull back' and 'shut oneself in,'" per Wired.

The government is "strengthening its support to enable reclusive youth to recover their daily lives and reintegrate into society," the ministry said. The effort is also envisioned to address South Korea's shrinking working-age population, which is tied to the country having the lowest fertility rate in the world, per Bloomberg. President Yoon Suk Yeol recently declared a decline in productivity as a "crucial national agenda."

About 3% of South Koreans between the ages of 19 and 39, or some 350,000 people, are considered lonely or secluded, according to Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs. There have been efforts to encourage them to socialize for years. In 2019, the private Korea Youth Foundation began funding a group facility for young hikikomori in Seoul, as the Asahi Shimbun reported, with one official claiming many young people "have no opportunity to work." Youth unemployment stands at 7.2%, per Bloomberg. Under the new provisions, qualifying recluses aged 9 to 24 will receive $490 per month for general living costs. (More South Korea stories.)

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