SEOUL (KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - South Korea will check all 480,000 children set to enter elementary school this year for signs of child abuse, the Education Ministry said Sunday (Feb 5).
"If soon-to-be enrollees are unaccounted for, failing to show up at preliminary meetings organised by their designated schools, we will pay a visit to their houses and check their living situation," said an official from the Education Ministry.
This marks the first time that the government conducts a nationwide inspection of pre-school children, after a high-profile case last year revealed a loophole in the current education system to detect child abuse cases.
In February 2016, the body of seven-year-old boy named Shin Won Young, who had been locked up and beaten for three months by his stepmother - was found months after his death.
The case came to light as a result of a nationwide survey on children who failed to enroll for school in time or had been absent from school for a long time.
The death sparked public anger and demand for the education authorities to step up child-abuse monitoring and more actively respond to children's long absence from school.
According to the ministry, the elementary schools nationwide will gather information about would-be enrollees through preliminary meetings in February and will take steps on those children whose whereabouts are not accounted for till then.
The school will first try to contact parents or guardians, and if not possible, will ask the district office's social welfare manager to visit the children's at their registered address.
"Authorities will closely cooperate with the police as well when something strange is discovered," the ministry said.
The number of reported child abuse cases has nearly doubled over the last 10 years in South Korea. In 8,207 of the 10,027 confirmed cases in 2015, the offender was the parent of the victim.