All Professional Bodies, National Associations (e.g. Mental Health, School, Guidance, Addiction, Faith-based etc.) and Accrediting Organisations.
Universities and Other Education and Training Institutes
Counselling Agencies, Services, Group Practices, Counselling Centres
Background & Context
South Korea has a counselling history of over 60 years in the profession. Counsellling psychologists (CP) increased drastically from 20 to over 20,000 in the period of 1987-2015 (Young et al., 2016). In 1962, counselling as a college major was developed. In the next year, the Korean Counselling Association was first founded. From 1985 to 1988, Seoul’s Board of Education routinely provided training for counselors and implemented secondary schools with counselors for guidance. The Korean government provides public services through three levels. The government agencies (Level 1) either provide services themselves or manage the services offered at Level 2 (organizations founded by legislations) and Level 3 (educational institutes including counselling centres; Young et al., 2016). There have been many private counselling centers available in South Korea whereas government-funded counselling can mostly be found in hospitals.
South Korean CPs first became more apparent during the 1950s, with the American Education (AEM) aids given to the Korean War-damaged education system to implement student guidance and counselling in school. In 1957, Seoul’s Board of Education progressively provided training courses for teachers in understanding basic counselling activities. With the influence of the Western psychotherapy theories, it was known that South Korea adopted CP with the Western ways. The approach used by the professionals was questioned as there was a limitation when applied to Korean culture. In response to this, Korean CPs incorporate traditional theories from Korean philosophy by Han counselling and Tao psychotherapy in which they discussed the matter of culturally sensitive counselling practices (Young et al., 2016). From 1985 to 1988, Seoul’s Board of Education instituted a programme to routinely train and implement counselors to secondary schools. The counselling profession eventually grew through various initiatives.
Current Regulatory Status / Level of Recognition:
The Ministry of Mental Health and Welfare has official licenses for clinical psychologists and social workers. However, there is no official governmental license for counselling psychologists. This includes all CPs who work across all age groups as well (Young et al., 2016). The only license issued by the government is for “Youth Counsellors”, which are government certified for the Korean Youth Counselling and Welfare Institute. At this present time, the independent associations for counselling all offer counselor certificate systems, such as through the Korean Counselling Association (KCA). As of 2004 (Kim & Lee), there were 92 private counselling centers listed in South Korea. Since there is no legislative restriction on mental health-related private practice aside from prescribing psychiatric medicine, more CPs are expected to pursue this professional pathway. According to Seo, Kim, and Kim (2007), more counselors are attempting to work under counselling facilities by providing individual, career, and group counselling for their employees. This also includes religious organizations and churches to hire an actual professional CP in an effort to extend their educational and counselling services. Areas such as the military were also encouraged to implement professional counselors as well (Seo, Kim, & Kim, 2007).
Counsellors in Korea work in a variety of settings such as:
- State-based Organizations
- Private Practices
- Schools & Universities
- Businesses companies
- Faith-based Organizations
Challenges & Trends
Issue with licensure and government refusal on licensure
There were several licensure issues in regards to government refusal on licensure. It has been known that South Korea disapproved of a mental health counselor license for counselling psychologists as the Mental Health Welfare (MHW) has already approved several mental health-related licenses, which include the mental health clinical psychologist and mental health social worker. Therefore, the issue on the counselor’s licenses approval request was assumed unnecessary due to other availability of the licenses as mentioned (Young et al., 2016).
Moreover, this results in counselling training programs to be lacking a unified accreditation system (Young et al., 2016). This further questions the quality of training which can possibly fluctuate with the level of competence each training site possesses.
In relation to this issue, the challenges remained continuous as it can be difficult to define the identity and the role of counselling psychologists in South Korea (Young et al., 2016). General comparison has often been made with counselling psychologists with other adjacent mental health professionals such as clinical psychologists, social workers, psychotherapists, and art therapists. In the extreme issue of mental health professionals, some South Koreans may believe fortune tellers are life counselors as well.
In another case, qualified counselors in South Korea have a tendency to supervise trainees rather than meeting clients (Young et al., 2016), which is an undesirable situation as a great number of clients needing the services may be left with a lack of counselors’ presence and availability towards the community.
Counselling fees are not fully covered by current medical insurance in Korea.
Suicide in South Korea has always been an issue as the suicide rate at this current time placed the country the 10th highest in the world according to the World Health Organization (2016). The continuous efforts of the “Mental Health Counselor Council” has been working towards persuading the Ministry of Mental Health and Welfare to include counselling psychologists as government-approved professionals who can work at mental health centers with proper accreditation (Young et al., 2016).
Additional Information & References
For a deeper exploration of the counselling profession in the country, interested readers are recommended to read the following journal & website articles:
- Kyoung, M. and Soo-Kyoung, L.(2020). Counseling in South Korea. CSI’s global network. tps://cdn.ymaws.com/www.csi-net.org/resource/resmgr/Research,_Essay,_Papers,_Articles/Counseling_in_South_Korea.pdf
- Young A.J., Young-joo H., Hyejin L, & Dong-gwi L. (2016) Counselling psychology in South Korea. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 29(2), 184-194, DOI: 10.1080/09515070.2015.1127209
- Seo, Y.S., Kim, D.M., & Kim, D. (2007). Current Status and Prospects of Korean Counseling Psychology: Research, Clinical Training, and Job Placement. Applied Psychology, 56(1). doi:10.1111/j.1464-0597.2007.00279.x