[EDITORIALS]Who protects the children?

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[EDITORIALS]Who protects the children?

Again children have fallen victim to the neglect of adults. On Friday, a brother and sister, ages 7 and 9, suffocated when a fire that started in a nearby parking lot spread to their house. A sixth-grader committed suicide over the bullying of his classmates. The youngsters were in need of help from society but were left neglected until it was too late.

Their deaths bid us ask whether Korean society is equipped with a minimum safety net for the protection of children. Many people have emphasized the importance of children by calling them the pillar of the nation and the buds of our future, but have neglected to protect them.

Protecting children is an obligation that is not restricted to households alone. Since financial crisis hit the nation in 1997, most housewives are forced to work to support their households. The number of day-care centers in local communities and workplaces cannot keep up with the increasing number of children left at home while their parents go out to work.

The preschoolers pose a problem, but primary students, ranging from grades one to three, raise a burning question. Not many adults are taking care of these children, and there are few day-care centers to take care of them after school or schools that have programs to take care of them. Therefore many elementary-school students are not under protection of the existing system. The central government and local municipalities should urgently expand day-care facilities and provide regulations that would obligate institutions to operate day-care centers after school. The government could provide measures such as tax exemptions to induce participation and donations from corporations to expand day-care facilities.

Fundamental changes in perceiving class bullying should take place. The fact that more than half of elementary, middle and high school students have fears of falling victim to bullying, and 11 percent have experienced it, proves that bullying is not restricted to individual schools and households. Fortunately, the police agency of North Gyeongsang province reported that it would form a committee and seek cooperation from parents to confront school bullying. A comprehensive plan involving schools, parents and the police should be made.
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