Few countries have faced health and social welfare problems as acute as those caused in the ROK by the devastation of the Korean War. The war left a residue of 348,000 war widows, most of them with dependent children, and 100,000 war orphans. Some 595,260 homes were destroyed, 5,000 villages wiped out, and many large cities badly damaged. Military relief payments consist mainly of financial support to veterans and their families.
Old age, disability, and survivors' insurance is provided to all residents aged 18-59. There is a separate system for public employees, school teachers, self-employed individuals, and military personnel. Workers and employers contributed 4.5% of earnings and payroll, respectively. Medical benefits are provided to all permanent residents, and workers' compensation is extended to employees of firms with five or more workers.
Conservative Confucian tradition encourages married women to remain at home. Women continue to suffer legal and societal discrimination. Despite equal opportunity laws, very few women achieve high levels of professional success. The wage of the average female worker is roughly half of that earned by a male counterpart. Violence against women, domestic abuse, and child abuse are prevalent and appear to be increasing with the economic decline. Divorce remains socially unacceptable in most sectors of Korean society, and this leads many women to remain in abusive marriages. A new sexual harassment law went into effect in 1999.
Korean citizenship is determined exclusively by genealogy, and as a result, many Chinese born and raised in Korea are deprived of citizenship rights. Human rights are generally respected by the government. Some abuses have been reported involving detainees, but these are declining.