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The Peninsula

Local Governments Pilot Technologies for Tackling Social Problems

Published January 11, 2022
Author: Korea View

What Happened

  • South Chungcheong Province is working with telecommunications firm KT Corporation to pilot artificial intelligence-based care robots that will aim to prevent suicide among people who live alone and deal with mental health problems.
  • This project was created in response to the province’s suicide rate, which is one of the highest in the country.
  • This event follows a larger trend of Korea’s investment in technology as a new alternative to address and treat mental health.

Implications: Local governments are taking a lead in exploring innovative ways to tackle social issues. The AI care robot project piloted in South Chungcheong province is a prominent recent example of the local government taking on an issue that the central government has yet to satisfactorily address. Similarly, the Seoul Metropolitan Government began offering private online education in August to address the widening education gap between students of varying socioeconomic backgrounds. While local governments have been taking a proactive role in policymaking in recent years, COVID-19 appears to have accelerated the need for local governments to expand their policy toolkit and address local challenges.

Context: Korea suffers from a serious mental health crisis. The country’s suicide rate has been the highest among OECD member countries for a number of years. Social stigma surrounding mental illnesses discourages individuals from seeking professional help, exacerbating this public health crisis. The pandemic worsened this crisis as the number of Koreans who suffer from mental illnesses rose by 4.67% in 2020.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Janet Hong, Yubin Huh, and Mai Anna Pressley. Public domain picture from Wikimedia Commons.

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