South Koreans face lonely deaths as traditions fade
Monday, January 21, 2013 - 01:34
Jan 21 - A growing number of old people are dying lonely deaths in South Korea due to changing values and fragmented family ties. Sarah Charlton reports.
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The remains of a South Korean widow are taken to their final resting place.
Sixty-two-year-old Yoon Sook-hee died earlier this month, but joined a growing number of elderly people facing death alone.
She had no family willing to pay for her funeral, and was cremated thanks to volunteers who never even knew her.
In modern day South Korea family ties are fragmenting. Now, over a million people live - and increasingly die - alone.
Seventy-three-year-old Kong Kyung-soon lives on her own in this tiny apartment in Seoul.
SOUNDBITE: 73-YEAR-OLD SINGLE ELDERLY WOMAN KONG KYUNG-SOON SAYING (Korean):
"Whenever I tell my sister I want to die, she tells me I can after I come up with money for my funeral expenses."
Experts say lonely deaths are due to a rapidly changing society.
SOUNDBITE: KIM JIN-SOO, PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL WELFARE AT YONSEI UNIVERSITY, SAYING (Korean):
"We have been trying to solve the problem of lonely deaths with an anti-poverty policy, but it is more about the problem of psychological loneliness rather than poverty. We should stop making the elderly think there's no one around them. Then the lonely deaths will disappear."
The government does offer welfare help to the elderly, but in a country ageing faster than all other industrial nations, many fall low on the list.
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