Orphanage accused of serious abuse

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Orphanage accused of serious abuse

A half-century-old orphanage in North Chungcheong twice honored as the province’s best social welfare facility has been accused of abusing children for years.

Orphans were allegedly beaten with brooms, put in solitary confinement and forced to eat garlic or chilies as punishment.

The National Human Rights Commission said Thursday they have made a complaint to prosecutors about the head of the foster care home in Jecheon, North Chungcheong, a 50-year-old woman surnamed Park, and advised the local government to take necessary administrative measures.

According to an inspection by the commission, a total of 52 orphans between the ages of four and 18 were abused for about 10 years. The commission said that Park and other teachers beat children with 40- to 50-centimeter (16- to 20-inch) wooden sticks and brooms when they disobeyed them.

“They forcibly put garlic into my mouth because I said some bad words to my friends,” one abused orphan was quoted as saying. “They also made me eat garlic because I finished my meal late. They even made me eat garlic that I threw up.”

The orphanage was established in February 1963 by an American missionary for children who were abandoned by their parents. It was named as the best social welfare facility in North Chungcheong in both 1976 and 2010. About 1,200 orphans lived in the facility over the last 50 years. There are currently 74 children and teenagers and 28 staff. The founder of the facility headed it until last November when Park, who was secretary general, succeeded her.

The commission said Park set up a “time out room,” which the children described as a solitary confinement cell. It was on the third floor of the orphanage and was also used to store broken shelves.

The students said they could be put in solitary confinement for days and not allowed to use a toilet. “This is like a prison,” was scrawled on the wall of the “time out room” when commission officials visited the facility.

“Some of our friends who were put in solitary confinement told me they thought about committing suicide in that room,” one of students said.

The commission said the orphanage made children shower with cold water even during the winter and denied elementary school students pillows.

“One day, they put a boy into a big sack, loaded him in a car and threw him down a mountain three times,” another students told the commission. “About seven or eight years ago, one teacher plunged a student’s face into a toilet bowl several times.”

The commission said it was investigating a petition citing abuse that it received last September.

“We found there were similar accusations 10 years ago but no proper investigation was made at the time,” a spokesman of the commission said.

The head of the orphanage denied most allegations but said, “Some discipline was necessary to control the kids.”

By Kim So-hyun, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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