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Commission Releases Investigation Report on Rights Violations of Student Athletes
Date : 2007.05.30 00:00:00 Hits : 1216
To address violence against student athletes (a new social issue), ascertain their human rights status including their right to learn, and formulate improvement measures, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) conducted an " investigation into student athletes" human rights conditions" with focus on elementary school students. The Industrial-Academic Cooperation Team of Yonsei University was commissioned to conduct the research (period of investigation: July 1 - November 30, 2006).
The investigation report classified human rights abuses against members of elementary schools" athletic teams as physical, verbal, or sexual violence as well as infringements upon the right to learn. The report identified the human rights conditions specifically, by type of sport, region, gender, and grade. The report offers political and institutional improvement measures on the basis of the findings.

The research team conducted a survey of 764 members of elementary school athletic teams in 15 cities and provinces around the nation. The team then conducted in-depth interviews with coaches, parents, and administrative policy-makers. It later hosted a seminar with academic experts and finally issued a report on the human rights conditions of student athletes as well as measures to improve such conditions.
According to the investigation findings, 554 (74.3%) out of the 746 elementary school athletes who responded to the survey experienced verbal abuse, 559 (74.9%) were subject to physical violence, and 111 (14.9%) suffered sexual violence.

Most of the verbal and physical abusers were leaders such as coaches and managers (verbal violence: 69.0%, physical violence: 80.3%). Most of the sexual violators were leaders (43 respondents among 103 victims) and seniors (41 respondents) in the case of male students and were leaders (7 respondents among 8 victims) in the case of female students.
Among the means of physical violence were clubs (38.6%), hands (29.1%), physical exercise instruments including baseball bats or tennis rackets (13.2%), rods (7.2%), and feet (4.3%). There were even cases in which violence with bamboo swords or hockey sticks was reported. Those playing team sports such as soccer and baseball are far more prone to physical and verbal violence, and they accounted for a higher ratio of the sexual violence. Regarding the average frequency of physical violence per week, 40.9% of the respondents reported 3 to 4 times, and 5.1% mentioned 11 or more times.
Victims of violence were more inclined ( average 2.65) to beat their junior teammates, indicating a vicious circle of violence where victims turn into violators. In addition, student athletes who experienced physical violence were more obsessed with their sports and victory. However, it was reported that physical violence did not seriously affect actual game performance.
Concerning violation of the right to learn, existing law requires elementary school student athletes to participate in regular lessons without exception. However, 118 out of the 605 male student athletes who responded to the survey (19.5%) and 43 out of the 133 female students (32.3%) reported less than five hours of average daily class time, which indicates that a high ratio of students still fail to attend regular lessons.
Since the tragic fire at the training camp of Cheonan Elementary School" s soccer team, camp training of elementary student athletes has been legally prohibited. However, the practices of camp training remain firmly in place as they are considered necessary to select excellent athletes and attract athletes from other regions. In some cities and provinces, there were even attempts to forcefully prevent athletes from participating in school lessons in order to improve their chances of winning medals in the national junior sports competition and other competitions. Furthermore, some cases were reported in which players of certain sports events including tennis and golf were subjected to such intensive training that they could not attend classes for several months at a time.
As an approach to improve the human rights conditions of student athletes, the investigators determined that a paradigm shift would be required in sports education policy that places a priority on " elite sports." Their report specifically suggested that schools" participation in national sports competitions including the national junior sports competition be limited to twice a year; national sports competitions be conducted during vacations; the number of such competitions be incrementally reduced; and a general league system in which meets occur on weekends be established.
The report also proposes establishment of " departments in charge of human rights protection" for student athletes and " officers dedicated to protecting the human rights of children" at government agencies, installation of " public relations teachers regarding human rights" in each of the 16 metropolitan cities and provinces, and offering of human rights education programs for student athletes and their coaches in order to prevent physical, psychological, and sexual violence against student athletes and monitor human rights abuses against them. Furthermore, the report suggested ways to proactively improve perceptions of major figures in school sports including coaches, parents, and principals and promote public relations in the process of addressing and protecting the human rights of student athletes. This is because a change in the perceptions of these persons is essential, and they must play a central role.
On May 1, the NHRCK held a presentation on its investigation findings to hear comprehensive expert views on them. The NHRCK also hosted a related policy debate. On the basis of its investigation findings and the results of the policy debate, the NHRCK plans to formulate effective policy measures to improve the human rights conditions of student athletes and recommend those measures to the government and other agencies concerned.

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