South Korean Human Rights Monitor


Play Culture and Care Services For Children

Eunjung Cha December 7, 2012

Nowadays daily routine of children in South Korea is quite similar to one another: school, hagwon, or private academy, and home, and repeat. Even as children, they lead as busy and repetitive of lives as any adults. Furthermore, there is a crucial lack of play culture in their daily lives. In addition, child care services currently existing are inefficient in quality and insufficient in quantity to meet the needs of children who require enough rest and pastime activities to grow healthy both physically and mentally.

Many children have feelings of futility when they come home after school because nobody is at home in the daytime. Therefore, children who live in the suburbs choose to go to a nearby mall to hang around at the toy store or even to find something to eat. Since there are no places for entertainment and eateries nearby, children tend to spend their time at the mall. Also, because their parents may not be as wealthy as their counterparts who live in the central part of town, often they are busy working late at night to make a living. The parents cannot afford to properly take care of their children.

Even if  their family might be financially well off, children are busy studying at cram schools until midnight, without much leisure time, if at all. As a result, they are drawn to available sources of entertainment nearby like the internet cafés where they play computer games, further developing unhealthy habits that continue well into their adult lives.

In fact, in addition to addressing the problems of not having enough play culture, a systematic overhaul of child care services is needed in order to help children relax and enjoy their lives. Fortunately there are different kinds of centers and academic institutions of child care such as after-school academy, local child care center and child care classes for elementary school students. These care services are mostly provided by Ministry of Health and Welfare, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, and Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. Unfortunately, however, each department works separately, so that it causes lack of unity because they each have different types of approach to issues with different budget. Accordingly, some policies tend to be overlapped while some are left out. In addition, it leads to inefficiency in dealing with important child issues such as transgressions, crimes and addiction to online games.

Children need places where they can spend leisure time after school. Providing useful recreation services such as places for arts and recreation, children sports centers with a more affordable registration fee, healthy eateries and parks can help children feel more relaxed and less stressed. Also, child care policies need to be unified to a certain extent in order not to waste budget and  to root out kinks of inefficiency in the system. There needs to be in place long-term, and properly organized, plans. We should not forget that all children have the right to enjoy their lives.



[1] Yoobin Choi, “Children who have no places to go, ‘sample food’ while hanging around in the mall” (The Hankyoreh, 17 October 2012) <> accessed 22 November 2012

[2] Sunyi Lee, “Parents in Gangnam feel sad due to their children who were addicted to computer games” (, 26 June 2012) <> accessed 22 November 2012

[3] Chungyun Kim “Why do incidents break out even though there are many care services?” (The Hankyoreh, 12 November 2012) <> accessed 22 November 2012

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