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National Human Rights Commission of Korea Chairperson’s Statement on the 102nd Children’s Day
Date : 2024.05.28 15:18:10 Hits : 150

National Human Rights Commission of Korea Chairperson’s Statement on the 102nd Children’s Day


Let us continue to foster a human rights-aware school environment that respects every child as a human being with their own rights


The fifth of May this year will be the 102nd Children’s Day in Korea. We celebrate the day as a statutory holiday in commitment to respecting children as human beings with their own rights and to making children’s lives fuller and happier.


Are we really making the lives of Korean children fuller and happier, though? In 2021, Korea came in 22nd of the 22 member states compared by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in terms of child well-being. Korea was ranked 26th of 30 countries in terms of life satisfaction of children aged 15 or under. Schools are not doing their best to keep our children happy. Over the five years spanning 2018 through 2022, the largest number of complaints about human rights violations at schools that the NHRC has received concerned restrictions on students’ hairstyle, appearance, and clothing. The next largest number involved verbal and other forms of abuse at schools.


These indicators reflect our deep-seated societal view of children and youth as less than complete holders of rights, as subjects of discipline more than of respect. The Ordinances of Human Rights for Students are key parts of local legislation that have come about to ensure that children’s rights, guaranteed by the Korean Constitution and international treaties, are respected and protected at schools. It is quite concerning that the legislatures of Chungcheongnam-do and Seoul Metropolitan City resolved to abolish their Ordinances, on April 24 and 26, respectively.


Schools are where children develop sensitivity to human rights issues and learn to respect one another, with everyone involved helping and encouraging them to grow into healthy citizens of a democratic society. A happy classroom starts when the teacher is guaranteed an environment in which they can focus entirely on educating their students. Teachers’ authority and students’ rights are not in a zero-sum relationship. Both are needed as they complement each other.


What is really required of us now is to gather our wisdom together to design and plan how best to run schools so that students will be respected as human beings with their own rights, teachers guaranteed the full range of authority over their teaching activities, and parents inclined to cooperate in trust. At the NHRC, we plan to review and consider a variety of options to make schools more human rights-aware.


Now that we are about to celebrate another Children’s Day, I sincerely wish for all children and youth in Korea to be accorded respect for their rights so they can live happily. The Commission will continue to pay particular attention to human rights issues involving our youth.


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