Controversy over the Seoul Students’ Human Rights Ordinance has been reignited right after Kwak Nohyun, the current superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education who had been suspended while he was on trial for bribery, returned to work. His bribery case was a hell of camp politics. The point is that he was the first (in the SKorean meaning of)liberal education chief of Seoul and there had been a fishy transaction over a single candidacy agreement for the victory of the last election. This is one of the top major issues in SK but I’m not going to go into details here.
One of the education chief’s main political issue was this students’ human rights bill. Although several municipal governments had already approved the bill more than a year ago, since Seoul is still the Republic of Korea, itself the controversy is so intense. Let’s see what the bill is for:
Major contents of the Seoul Students’ Human Rights Ordinance
- A right to not being discriminated by religion, pregnancy, family situation and sexual orientation
- A right to be free from corporal punishment and verbal abuse
- A right to realize one’s personality by dress and hair, etc. (which means that it was not a right for students of SK theretofore)
- No frisking and seizure (which means also…)
- A right to hold a rally inside and outside of school
- No pressure on students for attending to religious ceremony (a lot of private schools in SK compel students to do so)
Now you are going to witness what the major SK newspapers have got to say about the bill. I guess this is a good evidence that SK is yet to be a democratic country. I’m not going to comment on them because it is superfluous.
The following are excerpts of editorials from the big 3 newspapers in SK — Chosun, Joong-ang, Dong-a, aka CJD: (bold type by me)
It is indeed necessary to inform students of their rights but what’s more important is that nurturing a character and an ability to exercise their rights as future members of society. However Korean Teachers & Educational Workers’ Union and the superintendents with backing from the union were giving a wrong signal to studentsthat they are allowed to do everything in the name of human rights.
No one could imagine what a mess this country will be if even fourth or fifth graders hold a rallyinside and outside of schools. There is no country which gives unlimited freedom and rights to its little students. This is not an issue of the superintendent Kwak’s own personal philosophy and belief…
In this tougher-than-ever educational situation, setting students’ human rights in front would accelerate a dissolution of educational authority.
Undoubtedly, school has discipline and it is also important for civic education to make students comply… andwe should make them comply with discipline or take regulatory measures. There is no school good without rigorous discipline.