[VIEWPOINT]The ills of corporal punishmentA while ago, it was reported that the case of some policemen who beat a citizen in a fit of anger would be handled in the courts. While drunk, the citizen had assaulted a policeman and caused a commotion. But even a lawbreaker who challenged public authority should not be informally, physically punished. Even the military has said that any sort of violence should be banned, and if that rule is violated the perpetrator would face criminal charges. Does this mean that there are no more places where physical punishment is legally, practically allowed? It does not. The only place where it remains is in the schools.
Students are beaten when they are late for school, fight with friends, run around the playground in slippers, do not eat their school meals, fail to bring the required materials for a class, or when their grades fall. Are all of these really reasons for children to be hit? If so, no one in the world could avoid a beating. Then, why can children be hit? Is beating guaranteed by law?
South Korea legally permits corporal punishment “in the case where it is necessary for education.” The Ministry of Education announced the policy last year, and suggested specific rules. As a result, more than 72 percent of schools nationwide have rules permitting such punishment.
In 1991, South Korea joined the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has the same force as local law. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which supervises compliance with the convention, twice advised the South Korean government, in 1996 and this year, that “any form of corporal punishment should be obviously banned.”
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea also called for the revision of the elementary and middle school education law that is the basis for corporal punishment. But the Education Ministry insisted that it could not adopt the commission’s advice, saying that “corporal punishment should be understood as an inevitable, educational activity.”
Is corporal punishment really a method of education? By inflicting corporal punishment, problematic behavior may be temporarily stopped, but the fear, feelings of aversion toward the teacher and disgrace that students feel will never have educational value.
Even among those who oppose corporal punishment, many only oppose violent methods. Milder punishment can be permitted because the damage is not serious. It is a recognition that “rational corporal punishment” is permissible, while emotional punishment is harmful. That is little different from saying that children may be beaten. The United Nations has called corporal punishment “a kind of torture,” and even corporal punishment that is not severe violates human rights. If it is assumed that man has a right to beat and be beaten by his fellow man, the moral encounter or education between teacher and student and adult and child cannot take place.
by Yoon Ji-hi
The writer is the head of the policy board of the National Parents Association for True Education.