Korea Youth Counseling and Welfare Institute, a public institution under the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, was opened in 1993 to help adolescents develop healthy character and harmonious growth. . The Korea Herald spoke with its president Yun Hyo-sik, who was inaugurated late last year, about the institute’s main activities.
Yun, a leading expert in this field, served as vice minister of planning and coordination as well as vice minister of youth and family policy in the ministry of gender equality and family .
“I cannot stress enough the importance of adolescence in the cycle of life,” Yun said. “The future of a country depends on its youth. We will focus on establishing policies for young people and by young people,” Yun added.
Here is a conversation with the president of the institute.
The Korea Herald: Can you introduce the key role and functions of Korea Youth Counseling and Welfare Institute?
Yun Hyo-sik: This is an institution that oversees the operation of nationwide Youth Counseling and Welfare Centers and Youth Welfare Centers, including Youth Support Centers. out-of-school youth, youth shelters and self-help centers.
We offer a variety of psychological supports for teens with troubles and worries who suffer from mental health issues, including depression and anxiety. We provide services to address issues of suicide, self-harm, violence, media addiction, and emotional and behavioral disorders.
KH: How does the institute help teenagers outside of school?
Yun: Support centers for out-of-school youth – now numbering 220 nationwide – help teenagers return to school, enroll in school, find jobs or get started a company. The center also offers academic mentorship and scholarship programs for teens preparing for the academic equivalency test for high school graduation and the college entrance exam.
In particular, we have been carrying out the project “youth life file” since 2020. Because these teenagers do not have a “school life file”, they face restrictions when applying for early admission to the university.
This system prevents such discrimination, since it replaces the “school life book” with the “youth life book”. In addition, the number of participating colleges is gradually increasing.
In order to support employment and businesses, we provide opportunities such as career search, vocational training, internships and experience in starting a business.
KH: Teenage mental health has declined since the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how the institute does it?
Yun: We are conducting mental health surveys among young people aged 9 to 24 across the country for three consecutive years starting from 2020. The recent survey showed that the number of adolescents experiencing emotional difficulties – anxiety and worries (55.6%), depression (41%) and irritation (27.5%) – increased sharply.
We operate psychological clinics focusing on suicide and self-harm as well as anxiety and depression at our selected youth counseling and social support centers nationwide.
KH: In non-face-to-face situations, it will be difficult to find troubled teenagers.
Yun: We have developed a parental intervention guide for socially withdrawn youth and a video counseling manual to quickly identify reclusive youth and provide services. We have already distributed the guide and the manual to youth counseling and welfare centers nationwide.
We also operate e-Advice Centres, offering online chat and message board advice 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The counseling service is available anytime via KakaoTalk, Facebook and SMS.
KH: What is the biggest concern of young people today?
Yun: First, there are interpersonal difficulties. Mental health issues have been on the rise since 2020.
Second, out-of-school youth are discriminated against. In many cases, they are treated differently from other students when entering competitions, receiving discounts or seeking part-time jobs. We are working to improve this by reviewing examples of where their rights have been violated.
Third, there are concerns about the autonomy of unattached youth who have been admitted to welfare facilities such as the youth shelter because of family conflict, violence and abuse. There is an urgent need to improve this system, including funds to support autonomy.
KH: Can you give a message of hope to young people?
Yun: Youth is the bright future and hope of our country. Our institute supports every young person who takes on challenges to achieve their dream and their goals. Please knock on our door anytime.
If you’re in trouble, you don’t have to face it alone.
Just contact Youth Counseling 1388, which provides text and online counseling services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can find a good solution if you share your problem with a counselor from the counseling and support center for young people or from the dream center.
We will do our best to make your life happy and healthy.
By Yang Jung-won ([email protected])
By Korea Herald ([email protected])