No more child abuse

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No more child abuse

The CCTV footage that captured an Incheon day care center teacher slapping a 4-year-old to the ground was utterly appalling. The caregiver in the video smacked the girl so hard that she literally flew to the floor. But instead of falling into a state of shock or bursting into tears, the child instantly got up and knelt before the woman. She dutifully picked up the vegetable on the floor and put it back on her tray. It was obvious that she had been beaten before and was accustomed to such harsh discipline.

Child abuse cases in day care centers have become more frequent lately. A month ago, a CCTV video showed a day care employee throwing a child into the air because he wouldn’t take his nap.

Child abuse cases in day care centers have reached 754 over the past five years. That figure surged to 232 in 2013, up from 135 in 2012. Almost all preschoolers now go to day care centers thanks to government subsidies implemented since 2012, but infrastructure and service standards have failed to keep up with the sudden surge in demand. It’s the typical Korean style of doing things - introducing a policy before the market is ready.

What’s more dumbfounding is that the Incheon day care center in question received 95 points, a near perfect score, on an evaluation by the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Now parents can’t trust the state’s appraisal.

The government mostly evaluates day care centers based on their financial and administrative state rather than their services or teaching credentials. Supervisors from the Korea Childcare Promotion Institute - who examine and rate day care centers on behalf of the Welfare Ministry - total 220. But it would be impossible for them to thoroughly cover the more than 44,000 day care centers across the nation.

But perhaps the biggest problem is the quality of the staff. Staff can earn their licenses after taking online courses and undergoing rudimentary training. The work conditions are also pitiful - they work all day and receive a mere 1.5 million won ($1,400) a month. So it’s no wonder that so few qualified people want to work in the field. Those who own day care centers typically recruit people without thoroughly checking their credentials. The fallouts, then, are an unqualified work staff, poor services and food - and child abuse.

Lawmakers said they would form a joint task force to draw up new bills to prevent child abuse in day care centers and upgrade work conditions for employees. CCTV cameras must be mandatory in all facilities. But nothing should be rushed. Fundamental ways to improve the day care system must be sought after studying the structural problems. Measures also should include tougher punishments for child abuse. No child should ever be a victim.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 16, Page 30

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