Panel rules on punishment

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Panel rules on punishment

The government’s proposed alternatives to corporal punishment at schools can also be a violation of human rights if they cause students physical pain, Korea’s rights watchdog said yesterday.

The Education Ministry in January started taking steps to revise an enforcement ordinance for a related education law, aiming to ban corporal punishment and introduce other forms of punishment, including push-ups, laps around a track and standing at the back of a classroom.

Such disciplinary measures, however, also inflict physical pain on students and may violate their rights, according to the National Human Rights Commission.

“The boundary between corporal punishment and its alternatives is vague, and it isn’t clear which is more painful,” said an official at the commission who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The government’s plan has drawn criticism from liberal education chiefs across the country, who argue that all forms of punishment should be abolished. Others, however, have expressed concern over teachers’ weakening authority to maintain discipline in the classroom.

“The commission’s decision is appropriate,” said an official of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union. “Allowing alternative forms of punishment goes against the ban on corporal punishment. We should stick to the ban and first study the reasons behind physical punishment at schools.”

A spokesperson for the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations, however, said it is “regretful” that the rights watchdog made its decision based on values alone, without considering the reality of education at schools.

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