We have estimated the poverty line, counted the poor and
examined characteristics of the poor household. Despite the
various shortcomings of the statistics used in the analysis one
can draw several conclusions on these issues examines in this
The poverty line needs to be determined in relation to the
prevailing price level of a given time and place. It also needs to
be made a function of household size and composition. This
paper has estimated poverty lines for urban and rural areas, over
time and for different family sizes. There is no doubt that
further efforts should be made to update the commodity
composition for estimating the minimum living expenditures and
to establish finer breakdowns in the poverty line among regions
and households with different sizes and compositions.
The incidence of poverty and other indices of poverty
declined significantly during the period 1965-76 with the first
half showing a higher rate of decline than the second half. This
has a number of implications. First, the high-growth strategy
through a creation of many employment opportunities is a very
effective way of reducing poverty in a developing economy such
as Korea in the early 1960's.
Second, the effectiveness of the high-growth strategy tends
to diminish as the hard-core poor, who do not benefit directly
form economic growth, constitute a relatively larger proportion of
the poor. Thus, the high-growth strategy needs to be
supplemented by policy measures designed directly for improving
the welfare of the poor. Third, due to the rapid economic growth
and the decline in the incidence of absolute poverty the poverty
gap has become a relatively smaller portion of GNP and
Government expenditures. This implies that income
re-distribution schemes for the benefit of the poor is gradually
becoming a feasible proposition.
In recent years the incidence of relative poverty has shown
an increase due to the deterioration in overall income
distribution, while the incidence of absolute poverty has declined.
If this trend continues, it is highly likely that relative poverty
will soon be a more urgent social issue than absolute poverty in
The regional composition of the poor has changed drastically
: in 1965 the rural poor comprised a majority (64%) while in
1976 the urban poor was a majority(59%). This is a reflection of
the fact that manufacturing has been the leading sector in the
economy during this period and the rural-urban migration has
been very high. In urban areas the incidence of absolute poverty
seems to have increased slightly during the 1970's. This may
have adverse social and political implications unless appropriate
policy measures are formulated for this purpose.
The average standard of living of the poor in Korea may be
better than those in other developing countries but it is far from
being satisfactory. In terms of the health and housing condition
the poor in Korea seems to have serious difficulties.
Furthermore, the educational level among the poor is
considerably lower than the national average. In order to reduce
the absolutely poor as well as to prevent poverty from being
transferred ti the next generation it is important to make
educational opportunities readily available to all income groups.
Despite the recent decline in the incidence of absolute
poverty, the working poor constitutes a majority among the poor.
This implies that anti-poverty programs in Korea should consist
of not only welfare schemes but also those specifically designed
for improving the productivity and waged of the working poor.
Finally, it should be emphasized that in order to formulate
appropriate and detailed anti-poverty measures more should be
known about the patterns of poverty in Korea. Thus, serious
efforts should be made to collect reliable statistics on income
distribution and poverty on a regular and consistent basis.