China’s 10 Million Dyslexic Children Left In The Dark

Chinese school children
Chinese school children

BEIJING â€" China has some 10 million children suffering from dyslexia, with most left to fend for themselves without help from the country's educational or social aid structures.

Chinese magazine Caixin reports this week on a new survey based on 2014 national data that found 11% of Chinese suffer from the disorder, which is caused by problems in the brain's language processing functions.

Guo Fei, assistant researcher at the Institute of Psychology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, who participated in the study, said China's rate of dyslexia is similar to that found in the U.S., where recent studies have estimated 10 to 15 % of the population is dyslexic.

Dyslexia, which is not linked to intelligence but rather different impediments to the ability to read and write, is already widely recognized in the West, where educational policies and social organizations to assist affected children are well established. In China, however, dyslexic children often do not receive the help they need, the new report found.

“Affected individuals have no intelligence or motivational defects, nor do they suffer from vision, hearing or neurological disorders," says Bi Hongyan, researcher at the Institute of Psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "It’s not an illness in the traditional sense and is not to be treated as a disease.”

Caixin noted that the Chinese public education system does not currently provide special textbooks for dyslexic students, and there are fewer than five national organizations dedicated to assisting dyslexic children and their families.

Huang Lanzi, director of Social Enterprise Research Center, an educational institution that helps children who struggle with reading and writing, said that early intervention is the best way to tackle learning difficulties.

“The success rate for primary school children in grade one or grade two is as high as 80% to 90%, which drops to 30% to 40% for those in grade five or grade six," she says. "Unfortunately, most children sent to our center are in the latter grades."

Huang Yongguang, a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, recently submitted a proposal to establish a complete dyslexia screening and correction system, and develop detailed learning strategies to help affected children.

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Debt Trap: Why South Korean Economics Explains Squid Game

Crunching the numbers of South Korea's personal and household debt offers a glimpse into what drives the win-or-die plot of the Netflix hit produced in the Asian country.

In the Netflix series, losers of the game face death

Yip Wing Sum


SEOUL — The South Korean series Squid Game has become the most viewed series on Netflix, watched by over 111 million viewers and counting. It has also generated a wave of debate online and off about its provocative message about contemporary life.

The plot follows the story of a desperate man in debt, who receives a mysterious invitation to play a game in which the contestants gamble their lives on six childhood games, with the winner awarded a prize of 45.6 billion won ($38 million)... while the losers face death.

It's a plot that many have noted is not quite as surreal as it sounds, a reflection of the reality of Korean society today mired in personal debt.

Seoul housing prices top London and New York

In the polished streets of downtown Seoul, one sees endless cards and coupons advertising loans scattered on the ground. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, as the demand for loans in South Korea has exploded, lax lending policies have led to a rapid increase in personal debt.

According to the South Korean Central Bank's "Monetary Credit Policy Report," household debt reached 105% of GDP in the first quarter of this year, equivalent to approximately $1.5 trillion at the end of March, with a major share tied up in home mortgages.

Average home loans are equivalent to 270% of annual income.

One reason behind the debts is the soaring housing prices. In Seoul, home to nearly half of the country's population, housing prices are now among the highest in the world. The price to income ratio (PIR), which weighs the average price of a home to the average annual household income, is 12.04 in Seoul, compared to 8.4 in San Francisco, 8.2 in London and 5.4 in New York.

According to the Korea Real Estate Commission, 42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s. For those in their 30s, the average amount borrowed is equivalent to 270% of their annual income.

Playing the stock market

At the same time, the South Korean stock market is booming. The increased demand to buy stocks has led to an increase in other loans such as credit. The ratio for Korean shareholders conducting credit financing, i.e. borrowing from securities companies to secure stock holdings, had reached 21.4 trillion won ($17.7 billion), further increasing the indebtedness of households.

A 30-year-old Seoul office worker who bought stocks through various forms of borrowing was interviewed by Reuters this year, and said he was "very foolish not to take advantage of the rebound."

In addition to his 100 million won ($84,000) overdraft account, he also took out a 100 million won loan against his house in Seoul, and a 50 million won stock pledge. All of these demands on the stock market have further exacerbated the problem of household debt.

42.1% of all home purchases in January 2021 were by young Koreans in their 20s and 30s

Simon Shin/SOPA Images/ZUMA

Game of survival

In response to the accumulating financial risks, the Bank of Korea has restricted the release of loans and has announced its first interest rate hike in three years at the end of August.

But experts believe that even if banks cut loans or raise interest rates, those who need money will look for other ways to borrow, often turning to more costly institutions and mechanisms.

This all risks leading to what one can call a "debt trap," one loan piling on top of another. That brings us back to the plot of Squid Game, "Either you live or I do." South Korean society has turned into a game of survival.

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