The reality of child abuse in Korea is much more serious than Koreans expect. According to the statistics announced in 2021 by the Ministry of Health and Welfare of Korea, child abuse reaches 37,605 cases. There are quite a few cases of child abuse that have spread to social issues - like the ‘Jung-in Incident’ that occurred in October 2020. However, we still need a social atmosphere, system, and our efforts to solve the problem of child abuse.
Hyundai Motor Group has paid attention to this child abuse problem for a long time, and has developed various actions to fulfill their social responsibilities. Hyundai Motor Group’s ‘iCareCar’ project, which is celebrating its 10th year this year, is a part of that. The iCareCar project started with ‘iCareCar 1.0’, a vehicle support project that enhances the mobility of child therapists, and introduced technology related to psychological counseling. And this technology is leading to ‘iCareCar 2.0’, which turns the vehicle into a space where children can rest for a while. The people who planned and actually used iCareCar explained the background of the iCareCar project and how it helped in therapy.
Hyundai Motor Group started the iCareCar project for abused children in 2014. Regarding the background of starting the project at a time when social interest was relatively low, senior researcher Suksan-Yoon of the Sustainability Management Planning Team of Hyundai Motor Group explained as follows.
“In 2014, when the iCareCar project was first initiated, there was not much social interest in child abuse. However, Hyundai Motor Group decided that child abuse was a big social problem and a hole in our welfare system, and we started looking for a way to solve it. As a result, the iCareCar project was carried out with the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the National Police Agency to ensure the safe movement of children and help field investigations. Through continuous support, a total of 142 vehicles were donated to 66 child protection facilities nationwide by 2022, and the amount of support reached 3.5 billion won.”
The iCareCar project helped counselors eliminate the inconveniences experienced by moving to the places where child patients live - lack of vehicles for work, limited public transportation, etc. Therapists say iCareCar has increased the number of home visits, which has increased the scope of child abuse investigations and thus increased work efficiency.
As such, iCareCar 1.0 partially solved the problem of counselors’ mobility. However, various problems still existed in the counseling field. In particular, the rapid increase in child abuse cases, securing an environment to separate parents and children, the main perpetrators of abuse, during visit counseling, and the narrow space of general vehicles during counseling and treatment have emerged as problems that need to be addressed as soon as possible. Hyundai Motor Group tried to solve these problems through the iCareCar 2.0 project. Senior researcher Suksan-Yoon explained the direction of the iCareCar 2.0 project as follows.
“In the meantime, we have delivered several types of vehicles (Ray, Kona, Avante, etc.) to institutions so that they can care for children in various environments. However, Hyundai Motor Group noted that more than 80% of the perpetrators were the parents of the victims. We thought that for effective counseling, it was necessary to separate the perpetrator from the victim and to have a dedicated space for psychological counseling. Accordingly, iCareCar 2.0 expanded support for psychological counseling and selected models that can utilize new technologies. Staria Lounge Limousine, Carnival High Limousine, and IONIQ 5 are relatively spacious, so children can get therapy in a cozy environment. It is also easy to apply advanced mobility technologies that can help with psychological counseling.”
IONIQ 5, which maximizes space through Hyundai Motor Group’s MPV models Staria and Carnival, and a platform dedicated to electric vehicles, has a spacious interior that meets the purpose of psychological counseling. In addition, various digital therapy technologies installed in the vehicle increase the convenience of counseling and help stabilize the psychology of abused children. What is the background of providing digital therapy technology for consultation as well as vehicle support for the iCareCar 2.0 project?
“The new iCareCar focuses on psychological counseling. The number of abused children is increasing, and regular therapy is needed to take care of their minds and prevent further damage. However, most homes do not have a separate space, and it has become difficult to find a room for therapy since the pandemic. Accordingly, a new mobility space using Hyundai Motor Group’s technology was reviewed, and group companies such as Hyundai Mobis, Hyundai Autoever, and 42dot contributed to developing and applying digital therapy technologies such as AI voice recognition counseling function and EEG stress measurement technology. This was a new endeavor, but was considered necessary. I think it was possible because everyone contributed to the psychological treatment and daily recovery of child victims.” Senior researcher Suksan-Yoon explains.
Senior researcher Suksan-Yoon explained the achievements and future direction of iCareCar 2.0 as follows. “The new iCareCar hasn’t been around for long, so it’s too early to know exactly how it will perform,” she says. However, the initial reaction to the technology and vehicle was very good, as the developers actively utilized the therapists’ input and reviewed the idea from the start. Now is the time to actually use iCareCar and stabilize the technology development and application based on counselors’ opinions. Group company representatives and counselors will work together to improve and develop related skills for children. In addition, vehicle support will also be gradually expanded.”
Here are the therapists’ reactions; Jasung-Ku, a therapist specializing in child protection in Gangwon-do, who helped ensure that the opinions of child psychological counselors put into the field are faithfully reflected in the iCareCar project, spoke. “At first, child patients are usually wary of therapists. So, at the beginning of counseling, *rapport is formed through icebreakers such as weather, favorite food, and hobbies. After that, we gradually proceed with in-depth counseling by identifying the level of trauma from abuse, resources around them, people who can help, and other needs. iCareCar, as another therapist, is very helpful in conducting these consultations.”
The therapist Jasung-Ku continued to explain the effectiveness of iCareCar 2.0. “In 2020, with the publicization of child abuse investigations, child protection agencies have been given an intensive role in managing cases. Since then, iCareCar 2.0 has also been tuned as a vehicle dedicated to case management and personalized counseling. The biggest feature is that more in-depth case management is possible through digital therapy technology inside the vehicle. It is also equipped with facilities such as a table and a small refrigerator to help with consultation. Today, iCareCar is a shelter for abused children.”
*rapport: Refers to a relationship made of trust and intimacy for counseling or education. Counseling, treatment, education, etc. must be coordinated well, and rapport is a prerequisite for this.
As such, iCareCar evolved from 1.0 to 2.0 and introduced advanced mobility technology to build an environment where counselors can focus more on counseling. Therapist Jawon Ku explained how useful these changes would be in the field.
“Sometimes there are victims who are reluctant to seek counseling at home. In such cases, consultations are usually held outdoors. There was even a time when it suddenly rained and we held a consultation at a bus stop. As such, outdoor counseling has many unexpected situations. With iCareCar, victims can have deeper conversations because counseling is conducted in a cozy atmosphere where they can feel safe. Also, during counseling, there may be a difference between what children express on the outside and what they actually feel. Even if the rapport is well done, it is not easy to understand the child’s heart. Sometimes I wonder which questions would be okay. At such times, the digital therapy technology introduced in iCareCar 2.0 can help your child identify the thoughts or feelings they are hiding; We can check which questions the patients are sensitive to and arrange the questions so that they do not feel uncomfortable, so that we can conduct consultations in a friendly atmosphere.”
Thanks to iCareCar’s spacious interior and cutting-edge technology, the counseling environment is better than before. Therapist Jasung-Ku also explained that he was very satisfied with this part. Of course, he also said that the high-tech counseling technology installed in the vehicle needs to be improved a bit: “The earphones of the EEG-based stress measurement technology are optimized for adults, so they are rather large for children to use. Sometimes children have to hold the earphones with their hands and have a consultation. It would be great if the user could adjust its size.”
Even at this moment, child abuse is happening all around us. Hyundai Motor Group is constantly carrying out CSR activities such as iCareCar to help solve this child abuse problem. However, the most important thing about child abuse is to be concerned about the children around you. “Typically, abused children are wearing out-of-season clothing, or have cuts or bruises,” says therapist Jasung-Ku. If you suspect child abuse, please report it immediately to 112. For abused children, the interest of neighbors is a great help.” It would be nice if we paid a little more attention to the ones around us for the happiness of everyone, not just children.
HMG Journal Operation Teamgroup@hyundai.com
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