A meaningful step to protect kids

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A meaningful step to protect kids

The Korean government will push to remove parents’ statutory right to discipline their children with corporal punishment to prevent child abuse. It is mulling over lifting the wording of “corporal punishment” in Article 915 of the Civil Law detailing parents’ and legal guardians’ disciplinary actions on children. The government made the proposal during an expanded cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The disciplinary clause for legal guardians — which has never been revised since its adoption in 1960 — has often been used to justify the act of physical abuse towards children. But many people criticized the clause for being out of sync with the revised Child Welfare Act and the Special Act on Preventing Child Abuse, which bans corporal punishment. Because the law does not specify what constitutes as disciplinary action, it is difficult to differentiate discipline from abuse.

Korea and Japan are the only countries in the world that recognize parental rights to discipline children. About 54 countries, including Sweden, have outlawed inflicting physical pain on children. In March, Japan also announced a plan to revise the act. Tokyo also put forward legal revisions banning the use of physical force on children, particularly by parents. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has been pressuring Korea to revise laws and regulations to outlaw any use of physical force on children at homes, schools and care institutions.

Some are concerned about legal restrictions on the way a parent disciplines their child. In a poll, nearly seven out of 10 (68.3 percent) thought that discipline was necessary under some circumstances.

The response in favor of physical discipline overwhelmed the negative ones (76.8 percent versus 23.2 percent). The traditional values still dominate our society. Social awareness must change along with legal revisions.

Family violence and child abuse can start with a light slap. What has been shrugged off as a family matter can lead to a brutal — and fatal — end. A victim of child abuse can exercise the same violence as an adult.

Our society must change its mindset of “I can do whatever I want with my child.” A child must be allowed to grow up with full rights for development, participation and protection. The state has a duty to guarantee these rights to minors.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 24, Page 30
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