Chatbots are one of the ways South Korea wants to address demographic change on the peninsula. They call and talk to lonely seniors, of whom there are an estimated 1.7 million in the country. This is intended to provide some social interaction, but also help physically. If certain keywords such as “illness” or “stress” are mentioned, chatbots forward the conversation to a human employee.

On average, society in South Korea is still a little younger than in Germany, but that will soon change. According to the source, the birth rate is currently around one child per woman, one of the lowest values ​​in the world. Even Germany had an average of 1.46 children in 2022. Next year, people over 65 are expected to make up 20 percent of South Korean society. Then they will be on the same level as us.

16 hours of school a day

South Korea also has the same problems as Germany. In addition to the growing number of pensioners, there is a shortage of employed people in general and skilled workers in particular. Artificial intelligence should also help in this regard. In June last year, the government announced that it would use the ChatGPT chatbot developed by OpenAI in schools. To this end, 351 “Digital Leader Schools” were selected to test the use of AI at all levels, from primary school to secondary school. The vision is to use AI to develop personalized textbooks for each student. The first variants are expected to be tested from 2025. The teaching material could then theoretically address the strengths and weaknesses of each child.

This is part of a system in which education already plays the main role for children and young people. Students spend 12 to 16 hours a day at school; The curriculum focuses heavily on standardized testing. Even the few activities outside of school revolve around learning. South Koreans believe that it is only possible to lead a successful life with a good education.

High innovative strength of the economy…

This has its light and dark sides. On the positive side, it boosts the economy of the southern peninsula. Although giants such as Samsung, LG, Hyundai and SK Telecom continue to dominate the economy, a startup culture has developed alongside them. One of the newcomers is the search engine giant Naver, which operates one of the chatbots for seniors and has a market capitalization of around 22 billion euros. The messaging service Kakao now has 17 billion euros and the video game company Krafton with 7 billion euros.

The results are visible on the country's roads. From the end of 2023, the A21 bus line in Seoul runs a route of approximately 10 kilometers with Hyundai autonomous buses. The service is valid from 11:30 p.m. to 5:10 the next morning. Passengers must fasten their seat belts, two employees remain behind the wheel and monitors to be able to intervene in case of emergency. Buses also run a little slower than normal routes. If the test goes well, it will be expanded this year.

…but the highest suicide rate in the developed world

However, South Korea pays a high price for the innovative power of its startups. In 2023, the country had the highest suicide rate of any developed country in the world. South Korea's tough education system also leads the world among the 15-34 age groups. Furthermore, numbers of inpatient admissions due to mental illness are not as high anywhere in the OECD.

Additionally, services like chatbots for seniors only work well because South Korea enforces its data protection laws very laxly. Even before the coronavirus pandemic, laws allowing people to be tracked through credit card payments, cell phone data and surveillance cameras were relaxed. Thousands of seniors are allowing telecoms giant SK Telecom to monitor them directly with smart speakers that record every word spoken and every search query in an apartment. If seniors show signs of isolation, suicide or other medical problems, authorities are alerted.

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