National partner profile: South Korea

The Big Issue Korea


The Korean Homeless Team is managed by the street paper Big Issue South Korea, a social enterprise that is part of international street paper network The Big Issue. One of the enterprise’s permanent activities is street football, titled The Homeless Healthy Football League. Its impact is two-fold. It encourages homeless people to regularly exercise and therefore lead a healthy lifestyle. It also raises awareness about homelessness and shows people in Korea that homeless people can play football, and consequently work and live just like any ordinary person.

The Big Issue South Korea initially started as an online community in 2008. It was launched by young people who learned about The Big Issue abroad. In October 2009, Street Angels, an NGO tackling homelessness in Seoul, joined the community and in July 2010, The Big Issue Korea magazine was finally established as a social enterprise. More than 50% of the revenues from the street paper sales go directly to homeless people.

The Big Issue South Korea organise the player selection process and trainings for the Homeless World Cup. Seoul City Government has provided administrative support and football pitches free of charge, and the Korean Football Association has provided them with football equipment. The South Korean team participated for the first time in the 2010 Homeless World Cup in Brazil, where they were awarded the Best Newcomer Award.

Player profiles & Stories

Mission statement


The mission of The Big Issue Korea extends to three aspects of homelessness: people, society, and market. Firstly, they want to help homeless individuals achieve financial independence. Secondly, they strive to create empathy with homeless people in Korean society and offer them an opportunity for personal development and social inclusion. Thirdly, they aim to provide a new economic paradigm that is both social and marketable in its nature.

They strive to create empathy with homeless people in Korean society and offer them an opportunity for personal development and social inclusion.

Goals for the future

Capacity Expansion

To increase the number of participants, and to increase the number of participating shelters

Social Inclusion

To increase awareness about homeless people and encourage Korean society to accept and integrate them

Women's Programmes

To set up a women’s programme as homeless women are even more stigmatised than men

Additional information

Partner since


Football Activities

Weekly training sessions, running the Homeless Healthy Football League and the Homeless Healthy Football Tournament

Team selection

They are selected at preliminary contests in May and June prior to the Homeless World Cup.

Non-football services

The Big Issue Korea provide housing, health care, legal services, job search assistance, and publish The Big Issue street magazine.

Organisation challenges

Stigmatisation of homelessness and mental illness in Korean society

Country challenges

Public perceptions of homeless people range between fear, pity, and disgust (Korean Herald, 2012). People tend to have extremely negative attitudes towards homeless women, who are seen as pathological by their society. According to tradition, women should be confined to domestic sphere and carry out maternal roles (Song, 2009). During the 1997-2001 debt crisis, the Korean government declared that it would assist only short-term homeless men, and classified long-term homeless men and all homeless women as underserving citizens whom government could not help (Anagnost et al, 2013).

Homlessness definition

A limited and negative view of homelessness transpires in Korea’s definitions of homeless people: “Vagrants” are defined as “persons of 18 years or older, with no fixed abode or means of livelihood, who have loitered or lived on the streets for a considerable period, and through that have entered vagrant welfare facilities.” “Rough sleepers” are described as “persons of 18 years or older, having no fixed abode, who have lived on the streets for a considerable time, and through that have entered street sleeper shelters.” (Osaka City University, 2009)

Homelessness Statistics

The South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare classified 4,921 people nationwide as homeless in 2012, up from 4,403 in 2011 and 4,187 in 2010 (Korean Herald, 2012). However, there are approximately 6,000 people who are residents of rental hostels, which significantly increases the number of homeless people (Osaka City University, 2009).

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