South Korea: Crime rate soars among elderly people

An elderly Korean man sitting alone on some steps Image copyright AFP
Image caption South Korea is struggling with a growing elderly population and a shrinking birth rate

South Korea has seen a surge in the number of crimes committed by elderly people, it's reported.

Figures released by the police on Sunday show that violent crime committed by Koreans aged 65 and above soared by almost 40% between 2011 and 2013, the Korea Times reports. While the elderly population in South Korea is known to be growing, overall crime rates among senior citizens are rising at an even faster pace - up by 12% compared to a elderly population increase of 9.6% over the same period. The figures are particularly intriguing because crime has either remained level or fallen among other age groups, the paper says.

"The biggest reason why elderly crimes are on the rise is because nobody cares for them," criminal psychology professor Lee Soo-jung tells the Korea Observer website. "Expanding the welfare programmes for the elderly and considering age foremost before picking the recipients of livelihood programmes will help prevent crimes by the elderly." Poverty and depression are serious problems among older Koreans - according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 49% of them live in relative poverty.

In an editorial, the Korea Times says the government should have anticipated the problem of rising elderly crime, as demographic changes are so well researched in the country. In recent years, the government has been trying to boost South Korea's notoriously low birth rate. But in the capital, Seoul, senior citizens have outnumbered children for the first time, and figures show that more than 250,000 of them live alone.

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