S. Korean parents upset by plan to stop them beating their kids

SEOUL • A law allowing South Korean parents to physically discipline their children is to be scrapped, the authorities said, prompting controversy in a country where hierarchical family values still predominate.

Reporting of child abuse - including neglect and emotional abuse as well as physical or sexual assaults - rose more than tenfold between 2001 and 2017 to 22,386 cases, with 77 per cent of the perpetrators known to be the victims' parents.

"More in our society agree that child abuse is a serious social problem," Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo said on Thursday. "But many are still lenient about corporal punishment. The ministry is to change this perception."

Parents' right to physically discipline their children will be removed from the civil code, he said, where they have been stated since 1960. Physical punishment was also allowed in schools until 2010.

A recent government survey shows 76.8 per cent of adult South Koreans feel corporal punishment is necessary, and this week's announcement sparked controversy.

Ms Lee Kyung-ja, head of a conservative group of parents, is adamantly opposed to any change.

"I'm going to continue beating my kids even if it requires writing a contract with them," she said.

"I'll refuse to give them food and pay for their tuition if they don't listen to their parents."

South Korean children have been repeatedly cited as the least happy in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development group of developed countries, facing a high-pressure education system and deeply rooted traditional values which emphasise obedience and respect towards parents and authority figures.

That makes young victims of domestic abuse especially vulnerable, as filing a complaint or criticising a parent can be seen as a disgrace - or even a "sin against heaven".

Earlier this year, a 12-year-old girl who had reported abuse by both her biological father and her stepfather was murdered by the step-parent.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2019, with the headline 'S. Korean parents upset by plan to stop them beating their kids'. Print Edition | Subscribe