Double standards for childrenLEE KYONG-HEE
The author is the head of the Innovation Lab at the JoongAng Ilbo.
The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA)’s Royal Palaces and Tombs Center was in trouble because of three words: Foreign children excluded. For Children’s Day on May 5, two adults accompanying children receive free admission — but not for foreign children. After the rule was criticized for being discriminatory, the policy was quickly changed to free admission for all on Children’s Day.
The palaces and tombs managed by the CHA — such as Gyeongbok Palace and Changdeok Palace — are free for Koreans under the age of 24. For foreigners, free admission is given to children under 6. There are examples of different admission fees to domestic and foreign visitors in tourist attractions in other countries, too. Indian visitors pay 50 rupees (65 cents) to enter the Taj Mahal while foreigners pay 1,100 rupees, more than 20 times the cost. However, children under 15 are free regardless of nationality.
Thailand is notorious for posting higher prices in English compared to fees written in Thai. There is even a social media group named “Two Price Thailand.” People in the group are not foreign tourists but resident foreigners who live, work and pay taxes in Thailand. As the number of foreign tourists dropped due to Covid-19, the price discrimination against resident foreigners became a prominent issue.
Children in Korea are not simply classified as Korean nationals and foreigners. It is estimated that there are about 20,000 “stateless children,” who were born in Korea or lived in Korea from an early age but were never registered.
That is because of Korea’s citizenship law that determines nationality based on blood ties rather than the place of birth. Korea limits national birth registration to Korean nationals. While the Ministry of Justice is working on the “foreign children birth registration system” to give a birth registration number to foreign children born in Korea and warrant the right to learn, the implementation timeline is yet to be confirmed.
Even if the birth registration system is implemented, foreign children are still not covered by health insurance and can only dream of going to college. Once they graduate from high school and become adults, they would be forcibly deported to the home country of their parents, even if the children themselves have no ties. It is nonsense that Korea does not treat children who are born and raised in the country as Koreans and blames Korean women’s low fertility rate. I hope Children’s Day can be celebrated by all children in Korea regardless of the color of their parents’ skin.