BOLD Lunch Talk: The digital welfare states, lessons from South-Korea

In May, the Centre for BOLD Cities welcomed two South Korean researchers to Rotterdam for a special edition of a BOLD Talk. Suyoung Kim (Seoul National University) and Sochung Lee (Namseoul University) discussed their research on the topic of data and digitalisation in South Korean (healthcare) systems. 

Datafied welfare states
Suyoung Kim discussed her research on the ethical dilemma's surrounding the use of big data and algorithms in South Korean social welfare administration. Kim, associate professor at the Department of Social Welfare at Seoul National University, is a visiting fellow at the Centre for BOLD Cities during the 2023-2024 academic year. 

In her presentation, she highlighted the various ways the South Korean government collects and utilizes citizens' data. This data is used, among other purposes, to monitor citizens and determine if they might need government assistance, such as financial aid or healthcare.

According to Kim, this form of "dataveillance" raises an important question: does it function as a tool for social control or social care? She also reflected on the meticulous data management practices of the government, noting that a large number of civil servants are employed to verify and complete the collected data to prevent errors.

Interested in learning more about Suyoung Kim's research? Last April, we published a working paper by Dr. Kim, titled  "Ethical Dilemmas of Using Big Data in Social Welfare Administration" that delves into this case study. You can find it by clicking on the link below this article or by clicking here

Sochung lee presenting in the classroom. She is sitting in a chair behind a white desk and in front of a smart white board.
Sochung Lee

New ways of digitizing care
Sochung Lee took a different approach in her presentation. Through a case study, Lee, an assistant professor at Namseoul University, showcased innovative strategies South Korea is using to address the growing demand for elderly care.

One of the main issues facing the elderly population in South Korea is loneliness, with many older individuals having little to no social contact. To combat this problem, a local company launched "Hyodol," a robotic doll equipped with AI that is capable of interacting with the elderly. Hyodols can for example remind people to take their medication but also sing a selection of childhood songs and engage in short, simple conversations. The dilemma this case study raises however, is whether the introduction of Hyodol is a solution to the problem of loneliness among the Korean elderly population, or an evasion of a real solution to the problems the South Korean health care system is facing. 

Thank you to the two presenters for the many interesting insights and all attendees for the wonderful afternoon. 

About BOLD Talks
BOLD Talks are organized infrequently throughout the year to give a platform to early career scholars. They are given an opportunity to present their research and receive feedback from different perspectives. Do you want to keep updated on the new editions of BOLD Talks? Sign up for our newsletter by clicking on this link.


More information
Click here for Suyoung Kim's working paper "Ethical Dilemmas of Using Big Data …