It takes a villageThe National Human Rights Commission estimates there are about 20,000 children with no nationality in Korea because their parents are undocumented immigrants. The commission also estimates the number of kids who have foreign nationalities are here illegally is more than 5,000.
According to a JoongAng Ilbo report, these children are not eligible for even basic social services like medical treatment, child care and education. It is shameful that as many as 25,000 children cannot receive appropriate medical care or go to school and hang around other kids.
Korea made a promise to the international community to guarantee children the right of birth registration and medical assistance irrespective of their parents’ nationalities when the National Assembly ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in December 1991.
Needless to say, revision of relevant laws and changes to the social consensus are needed to protect children’s basic rights.
More importantly, though, we must embrace them because that’s an issue related directly to the protection of human rights. Leaving them in a blind spot could constitute a brazen infringement on their rights, and their dignity.
The government must amend the law to offer them basic services like medicine, child care and education. That’s the only way to enhance the dignity of our society.
Stateless kids also should be allowed to make friends with their peers instead of being ostracized by them.
In order to become upstanding citizens, they need to play with others. If they are absorbed in playing computer games or watching television at home because they’re afraid they’ll be caught by the authorities, they will become social misfits and won’t bring anything to our society.
In order to prevent them from morphing into lone wolves with no hope for a better future, communities, civic groups and schools must roll up their sleeves to help them, while making efforts to raise the level of understanding among local citizens and students about different cultures.
The government should not neglect crucial issues such as pregnancy and child care. If pregnant migrant workers and their babies cannot receive proper medical care because of their illegal status, that’s a critical violation of human rights. Foreign children raised in Korea can grow into a priceless asset for Korea. Our society must protect their basic rights as humans for a more balanced development of the country. JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 11, Page 30