[Letter to the editor]Misguided vigilance

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[Letter to the editor]Misguided vigilance

On Oct. 13, the BBC published the results of a survey conducted by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People. The study, in which more than 1,100 people participated, found that the fear of being falsely accused of harming young people is the major deterrent to people entering professions such as teaching and youth work.
A massive 48 percent of the respondents answered that they felt “a barrier to contact with children and young people.” Women and men alike stated that they felt unable to help a lost or injured child due to the stigma that may be negatively attached to them in the future.
Modern countries throughout the world are struggling with the consequences of over-sensitivity when it comes to the difficult issue of child abuse. Korea, on the other hand, seems to be a sitting duck for such types of activities.
Principle 9 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations states, “The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.” Who was protecting the rights of the children in Gwangju when Canadian Christopher Neil slipped through the Korean immigration loop?
While other countries struggle to recruit domestic teachers due to trepidation among young professionals, the Korean immigration system appears to be welcoming suspected pedophiles with open arms.
A handful of foreigners living in Korea remain anxious that the authorities will find out about their lack of a university diploma. Many fear that they will be accused of or caught teaching private lessons. A majority would agree that public witchhunts and media scorn do not reflect the welcoming environment that Korea professes to have. But as for child molesters ― well, who knows?
A few months ago, in Daejeon, a vigilante probe was launched by a band of irate hagwon owners who swore to root out all teachers who were employed as private tutors. Their method was questionable, but their quest was permissible in the eyes of the public and of the authorities.
It would seem then, that protecting the economic interests of employers is endorsed since it may ultimately lead to a huge haul of illegally operating foreigners and a pat on the back for Korean immigration services. However, defending the rights of children is, simultaneously, being swept under the carpet.
If the authorities put as much effort into tracking suspected pedophiles as they do in searching for minor misdemeanors, then perhaps this whole situation could have been avoided.
While the immigration office fervently seeks to expose and deport under- or unqualified teachers, regardless of their merit, wanted criminals are allowed to roam free ― provided, of course, they can hand over the appropriate certification. The question is, how many more children are going to be at risk of violation at the hands of child molesters in this country before the authorities learn that having a diploma is not necessarily the mark of a worthy person?
Victoria M. Elliot, a consultant at Norske Skog Korea in Jeonju
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