CCTVs will make children safer
There was an outpouring of public disgruntlement after the National Assembly failed to pass a bill requiring day care centers, preschools and kindergartens across the nation to install surveillance cameras. Supporters demand that the bill be resubmitted to protect children. Opponents argue that teachers also need privacy and that the quality of day care services will improve if their working conditions improve.
The bill to revise the Infant and Toddler Child Care Law to require the installment of surveillance cameras in day care centers across the nation was voted down during a National Assembly session earlier this month. Parents who had been shocked by the footage of a staff member at an Incheon day care smacking a toddler for not finishing the food on her tray naturally were enraged. It was also an insult and disgrace to the people and the nation, which collectively felt shame and guilt after subsequent reports of abuse, negligence, and mistreatment of children at day care centers were revealed.
The bill was endorsed by the parliamentary Health and Welfare Committee earlier in response to escalating anxiety about children left with unqualified day care center teachers. Bipartisanship also was at work at the next-stage judiciary review committee. Few doubted that the bill would pass. But when it was put to a vote at the assembly, only 84 out of 171 lawmakers who were present supported it.
The opponents cited two reasons for their disapproval. They worried about the privacy of teachers and claimed CCTV was not the answer to fundamental problems of child abuse at care institutions.
But those are just excuses. They are merely opposing for the sake of opposing. If privacy is an issue, surveillance cameras in workplaces and public places would all have to go. They exist, however, to serve a bigger public cause.
Even when CCTVs are installed at day centers, privacy is not an issue because few people can access the recordings. Law enforcement officers and parents suspicious of child abuse can only access them in accordance with legal procedures.
Day care centers, preschools and kindergartens are not private, but a public workplace for teachers. If privacy hinders the installment of surveillance cameras, child care centers should be interpreted as a place for teachers and not children. Some teachers say they feel offended that they are being watched as potential criminals.
But that’s fallacious reasoning. Based on his argument, all people in this nation are potentially liable to commit a crime. CCTVs today are ubiquitous. They can be found in banks, shops and even in places with little human activity. Surveillance cameras are installed not because the nation assumes people can commit crimes, but to protect them from potential hidden dangers.
CCTVs cannot ensure the safety and welfare of children while they are in day care. Teachers need better work benefits, qualifications and management through training. Child care services must be upgraded overall.
But Rome wasn’t built in a day. The process should be lengthy and incremental because it requires huge investment. All work must be done in order. What is urgent should be done first. Infants and toddlers kept in the care of others are fragile and vulnerable and they cannot express themselves clearly. Today even the mistreatment of animals is condemned. We must do everything to prevent abuse and maltreatment of children.
Parents won’t put this to rest. They have rallied against the upset in the National Assembly. Faced with public outrage, the legislature promised to pass the bill in April. Children are our hope and future. There is no excuse for preventing laws and measures designed to enhance their safety and well-being. Legislators should be ashamed by the suspicion of giving up their vote due to lobbying. They must restore their name by passing the bill as soon as possible.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author is co-head of the Parents’ Alliance for Education and Schools (Gyohakyeon).
By Kim Soon-hee