NHRCK Chairperson’s Statement on Older Persons’ Day in Korea (October 2)
Chairperson’s Statement: “Measures need to be taken to Protect the Rights of Older Persons, as Poverty, Suicide, Abuse and the COVID19 Pandemic exacerbated their Vulnerable State”
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea(Chairperson Doohwan Song) released a statement for the Older Persons’ Day in Korea to ensure the basic rights and dignity of elderly people.
The United Nations have set October 1 as the ‘International Day of Older Persons’ at the General Assembly in 1990. In order to follow suit, the Republic of Korea has also made October 2 the ‘Older Persons’ Day’ to raise public awareness on the rights of older persons and to further enhance the sense of respect for the elderly in Korea(Korean Older Persons’ Day is October 2, as October 1 has already been set as the National Armed Force’s Day).
Korea is already taking the pathway of becoming an aged society. And by 2025, we are expected to see Korea becoming a post-aged society, with one in five person being an older person.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD) report, Korea has one of the highest poverty and suicide rates of older persons among the OECD member states. Korea Elder Protection Agency of the Ministry of Health and Welfare also released ‘Abuse on Older Persons Report 2020’ and said the cases of abuse on elderly people in Korea have increased from 2,674 in 2009 to 6,259 in 2020, showing the maltreatment of older persons is still a serious problem in our society.
Therefore, according to these statistics, we cannot say with confidence that the older persons in Korea are fully enjoying the life with dignity as they should. The COVID19 pandemic further exacerbated the problem, due to the limitations in providing caregiving to older people and the high fatality rate of the COVID19 in this age group.
The Commission has recognized the severity of the issue and have set out the detailed objective of ‘enhancing the rights of older persons in the post-aged society’ in the ‘Action Plan for Human Rights Promotion(2021–2025)’. We have also created a venue to discuss pending human rights issues for older persons and tried to devise policies to address such problems with ASEM Global Aging Center.
The Commission is currently conducting a survey to better understand on-the-ground situation of older persons’ human rights through collecting their life stories, and is also actively cooperating with the international community to adopt the ‘Convention on the Human Rights for Older Persons’.
The article 10 of the Republic of Korea Constitution stipulates the people’s rights to enjoy happiness and dignity, and the section 1, article 2 of the ‘Welfare of Older Persons Act’ states stable living conditions for older persons have to be ensured, for they have contributed a great deal to the development of the Republic of Korea and the societies that make up this country.
All human beings are born equal, and with dignity. The fact cannot be degraded or belittled just because a person grows old and weak. However, elderly people who face such difficulties as poverty, suicide, abuse, hate and discrimination still exist among us. Recognizing older persons not as someone whom we need to care for through policies, but as people who have rights to enjoy basic human rights and dignity that we are all born with will be the first step to resolving the pending issues in our society regarding the rights of the elderly.
With the COVID19 pandemic crisis prolonging, we are all coming to realize human rights is one of the most important value in our society and therefore needs to be prioritized. The Commission hopes that the Older Persons’ Day becomes an important juncture to raise public awareness on protecting older persons’ basic human rights and the right to enjoy life with dignity.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea will continue to pay close attention to the issues related to the rights of the older persons and propose policy measures to make improvements on the current situation.