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The NHRCK finds it discriminatory for young migrant children living in South Korea to be excluded from support for early childhood tuition fees.
The Minister of Education has been recommended to prepare a scheme to expand the scope of support
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK, Chairperson Song Doo-hwan) recommended on July 6, 2023, that the Minister of Education (hereinafter referred to as the “respondent”) form a consultative body, including ministries and agencies concerned and experts to set up a plan to expand the scope of support for early childhood tuition fees. This mainly aims to entitle young migrant children living in South Korea to receive such benefits.
The petitioner has filed complaint to the NHRCK, claiming migrant children’s right to equality in education and to grow in a healthy and normal way are being limited by the respondent maintaining that only “young children with South Korean nationality” are eligible for the financial assistance.
The respondent argued that it is hard to come up with an immediate solution, citing that Article 1 of the “Framework Act on Education” stipulates the right to education is legally guaranteed for “people,” and the “Early Childhood Education Act” also provides that South Korean citizenship is an essential requirement for the monetary support. The respondent added that balance between other social services and government’s financial conditions would be comprehensively considered as well. In addition, social consensus and legal bases are also prerequisites to include young migrant children in the existing financial support, the respondent mentioned.
The Committee on the Child Rights at the NHRCK commented on the matter as follows.
1. As the project of financial assistance supports early childhood tuition fees of kindergartens and daycare centers for young children aged 3 to 5 regardless of the guardians’ income level, it can be seen as universal welfare instead of charitable welfare.
2. With the project aiming to ensure children’s right to equality in education and the start on equal footing, young migrant children shall have equal opportunity, which incorporates the non-discrimination principle of the “Convention on the Rights of the Child” into practice.
3. The issue of balancing other social services and government’s financial conditions should be handled by the relevant ministries and agencies cannot be a strong case for young migrant children to be discriminated against.
Based on the NHRCK’s review and findings, the respondents’ arguments cannot be accepted.
What concerns the NHRCK is that, without proper childcare, a child’s right to survival and development cannot be guaranteed, which can lead to a vicious cycle and ensuing child poverty. Of greater concern is that these problems will offload the potential burden onto society and hinder migrants' social and professional integration.
Accordingly, the NHRCK recommended the Minister of Education to form a consultative body, including ministries and agencies concerned and experts to set up a plan to expand the scope of support for early childhood tuition fees. This, in particular, should be designed to correct discrimination against migrant young children in South Korea.