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Seoul to open shelter for children

July 05,2017
There are 54 public shelters for abused children throughout the country, but none in Seoul, where the city government said it could not establish one due to a “lack of funds.”

So when an abused child leaves his or her home in Seoul under the decision of a social worker, they are sent out of town, as in the recent case of a 5-year-old son of a single mother in Seoul who tried to kill herself and her son by slitting their wrists. The boy was sent to a public shelter in Busan.

The 54 public shelters for abused children are established and run with 60 percent of funds coming from the Ministry of Health and Welfare and 40 percent of funds provided by local governments. An average of seven children stay at each shelter.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare paid 131 million won ($114,025) per shelter, and 16 local governments each paid 196 million won per shelter.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government bought a house and a small apartment two years ago. Each one was about 149 square meters (178 square yards). The spaces were paid for using 262 million won from the Welfare Ministry and 392 million won from the city government budget.

“We bought the two spaces two years ago but they were old and needed remodeling,” said a city government official. “We lacked funds to remodel them. They are not ready yet. The Welfare Ministry’s funding did not take into account the higher price of housing in Seoul compared to other cities.”

The official added, “The Seoul city government asked the ministry to provide more funds or lower the standard of houses to be bought and remodeled, but the request was dismissed.”

“The ministry decided not to provide more funds for Seoul alone,” said an official of the Welfare Ministry, “because this meant the ministry had to cut down the funds for the public shelters in other regions. The city government could have looked into renting a space instead of buying one to lower the costs.”

The Seoul Metropolitan Government recently received a 200 million won fund from a private organization to remodel the house and the apartment into public shelters for abused children. It is planning to open the shelter this year.

Seoul has the second-highest number of domestic child abuse cases nationwide. There were 2,245 cases in Seoul last year out of 18,573 cases throughout the country, according to the Welfare Ministry. Gyeonggi has the highest number at 4,338.

BY LIM SUN-YOUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]