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Is there ageism in Korea?


Ageism is a prevalent issue in many societies today. It refers to the discrimination or prejudice against individuals based on their age, especially when they are older. This article aims to explore whether ageism exists in Korea and how it manifests itself in different aspects of Korean society.

The aging population in Korea

Korea is one of the fastest-aging countries in the world, with a rapidly growing elderly population. According to a report by the National Statistical Office, the proportion of Koreans aged 65 years and over is expected to rise to 40% by 2060. This demographic shift poses significant challenges for the country’s economy, healthcare system, and social welfare policies.

Workplace discrimination

In Korea, older workers often face discrimination and prejudice in the workplace. Many companies prefer to hire younger employees, believing that they are more energetic and productive. Older workers may also be denied promotions or opportunities for training and development. Some companies even force older employees to retire early, depriving them of their livelihood.

Media representation of older people

The media can play a powerful role in shaping public attitudes towards aging and elderly people. In Korea, however, older people are often portrayed negatively in the media, perpetuating ageist stereotypes. They are commonly depicted as weak, frail, and dependent on others. Such images can reinforce ageist beliefs and attitudes among younger generations.

Social exclusion

Older people in Korea may also experience social exclusion or isolation due to their age. They may be excluded from social events or activities, or have fewer opportunities to engage in social interactions. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression among older people, which can have a negative impact on their mental health.

Healthcare disparities

Older people in Korea may also face healthcare disparities, as they are often overlooked or underserved by healthcare providers. They may be denied access to certain medical procedures or treatments, or receive inadequate care due to ageist attitudes among healthcare professionals. This can have serious consequences for their health and well-being.

Generational conflicts

Generational conflicts can also exacerbate ageism in Korea. Younger generations may view older people as conservative or out of touch with modern society, while older generations may feel that younger people lack respect and traditional values. Such conflicts can lead to misunderstandings and tensions between different age groups.

Ageism in politics

Ageism can also be observed in Korean politics, where older politicians may be marginalized or excluded from decision-making processes. Younger politicians may be seen as more dynamic and innovative, while older politicians may be perceived as resistant to change or stuck in old ways of thinking.

The role of education

Education can play a crucial role in combating ageism in Korea. By promoting intergenerational understanding and respect, educational institutions can help break down ageist attitudes and stereotypes. It is important for schools and universities to incorporate ageism awareness into their curricula and encourage students to engage with elderly people in their communities.

The impact of COVID-19 on elderly people

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on many elderly people in Korea. They are among the most vulnerable populations, with higher risks of infection and mortality. The pandemic has also exacerbated existing social and economic inequalities, further marginalizing older people.

The need for policy reforms

To address ageism in Korea, there is a need for policy reforms that promote social inclusion, healthcare equity, and employment opportunities for older people. The government should also take steps to combat ageist attitudes and stereotypes in the media and society at large.


Ageism is a complex and multifaceted issue that affects many aspects of Korean society. By raising awareness about ageism and promoting intergenerational understanding, we can work towards creating a more equitable and inclusive society for people of all ages.

Is South Korea an ageist?

South Korean culture is famous for its strong tradition of showing respect for elders and the seniority system. However, beneath the surface, there is also a prevalent issue of ageism in Korea.

What is considered old age in Korea?

Aging in South Korea refers to the rise in the percentage of senior citizens within the overall population, with “senior citizens” defined as those who are 65 years of age or older.

Why do Koreans care about age?

Age-based social hierarchies in contemporary Korea are a product of Confucian values that prioritize reverence for one’s elders. As stated by former Seoul National University professor Robert Fouser, younger individuals are anticipated to display respect towards their older counterparts.

What is the illegal age gap in Korea?

When a person engages in consensual sexual activity with someone under the age of 20 in Korean age, they are breaking the South Korean law regarding statutory rape.

How bad is inequality in South Korea?

The Gini coefficient measures income inequality, with a higher number indicating greater inequality. In Korea, the income ratio between the top 20% and bottom 20% of the population, known as the income quintile share ratio, increased from 5.85 in 2020 to 5.96 in the previous year.

Is it normal for Koreans to ask your age?

In South Korea, it is customary to ask for someone’s age shortly after meeting them. This practice is not just a social norm, but a way of establishing hierarchy and order between individuals.

In addition to policy reforms, there is also a need for cultural changes that challenge ageist beliefs and attitudes. This can involve promoting positive images of aging and elderly people in the media, as well as encouraging intergenerational relationships and activities. By fostering a culture of respect and understanding across different age groups, we can help reduce the prevalence of ageism in Korea.

It is also important to recognize the diverse experiences of older people in Korea. Women, for example, may face additional challenges due to gender-based discrimination and societal expectations of caregiving roles. People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds may also be disproportionately affected by ageism, as they may have fewer resources and opportunities to combat discrimination.

Finally, it is vital to involve older people themselves in efforts to combat ageism. Their voices and experiences should be heard and valued in policy discussions and decision-making processes. By empowering older people to advocate for their rights and interests, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society for people of all ages.

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