14 November 2023

SOUTH KOREA: Teachers seek changes in child abuse law

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teachers protesting in South Korea

Educators claim lack of protection is leading to a spate of suicides. Photo: Education International.

South Korean teachers have rallied to protest against a law that can hold them accountable for child abuse when they discipline children in school.

Around 120,000 teachers took to the streets near the National Assembly in Seoul demanding that Parliament revise the Child Welfare Act as a fundamental step to protect teachers’ rights.

A teacher at the rally said an article in the act that bans emotional abuse was becoming “a sharp blade of lawsuit and accusation against teachers seeking to engage in educational activities”.

Educators across the nation have recently demanded better treatment and guarantees of their authority in classrooms in the wake of a series of suicides by teachers who suffered from unruly students and malicious complaints from parents.

Currently, the act bans teachers from “committing emotional abuse against a child that may harm his or her mental health and development”.

Teachers argue that the vague wording of this provision gives justification to some parents to make groundless accusations with malicious intent.

They argue that teachers’ instructions should no longer be interpreted as emotional abuse.

Data released this month showed that 144 elementary, middle and high school teachers had taken their own lives over the past decade.

Meanwhile, the government has asked the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs to set up a task force to focus on price controls for key food items, such as milk and coffee, in response to the recent spike in food prices.

Officials will be responsible for monitoring the prices of each of the seven price-sensitive food items — instant noodles, bread, snacks, coffee, ice cream, sugar and milk.

A ministry official said the task force would be set up after internal discussions and consultation with other related ministries and agencies.

“The task force is not a long-term organisation, but a temporary one until prices stabilise,” the official said.

According to data from Statistics Korea, the price of ice cream vaulted 15.2 per cent in October from a year ago, with milk and bread prices jumping 14.3 per cent and 5.5 per cent, respectively.

Prices of snacks, sweets and other frozen products rose by 10.6 per cent on-year and those of coffee, tea and hot chocolate increased by 9.9 per cent.

At a ministerial-level meeting, Minister for Finance Choo Kyung-ho vowed that price stability would be a top policy priority, saying Vice Ministers of each Ministry would be responsible for ensuring it.

Seoul, 5 November 2023

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