Thursday, January 31, 2008

Locked out

I first came across the story of a girl who was forced to stand outside naked in below-zero weather as a punishment at a daycare center in Itaewon via Korea Beat, which translated an ohmynews article. Zen Kimchi's post made it clear that the foreign woman who took the photo above had first posted it on Dave's ESL Cafe, where another poster helped get the photos to the press. The best summary with all the relevant links would be over at Brian in Jeollanam-do. Worth noting is that the story has finally appeared in the English language press. The Joongang Ilbo (unsurprisingly) printed a story here. We're told that
The Yongsan District Office, which operates the day care center, filed a complaint against the 25-year-old teacher on Tuesday and also asked the Gender Ministry to cancel the certificates of the teacher and the center’s 71-year-old principal.
What exactly the Gender Ministry has to do with this I'm not sure.

I was happy to see that the local district office was actually doing something (ditto for the police), but it seems to be due to the fact that the photo appeared in the media (and attracted a lot of attention). A former co-worker used to work at an orphanage west of Yonsei University. She was a caregiver for a group of girls there, and found out that another caregiver had beaten a 9 year-old in her charge and left her covered in bruises. She photographed the bruises and made a complaint to her superiors. When city hall (which was responsible for the orphanage) found out, they called the orphanage’s management and told them how to get away with it, because it was city hall that was ultimately responsible. This would have been around 1999 or 2000, and I have no idea if things have changed since then. To be sure, she didn't take the photos to the media.

I wonder, had complaints had been made through the 'proper' channels instead of turning to the media, would this incident be under investigation now? Mobilizing the public as a 'third party' certainly got results for the person who posted the photo of the Dog Poop Girl (as well as the Human Rights Commission). It's nice to see that the expats at Dave's ESL Cafe were able to collectively bring the incident to light. So far there's been an absence of media spin along the lines of "Stoned English teacher takes photos of naked 4 year-old." This is a good thing.

Some comments have mentioned the difference in punishments between North America and Korea, with North Americans opting to ground kids to keep them at home, and Koreans choosing to kick kids out of the house. I can only think of one student (a ten year-old girl) who's ever mentioned being locked out as a punishment. I've seen this punishment in two Korean films (that popped into my head at a moment's notice - there's surely more). The first would be in an animated sequence at the end of Wanee and Junah (2001):

The girl in the film was stripped and kicked out after her mother caught her stealing from her purse. The other is the short "Man with the affair", by Jeong Jae-eun, which was part of the human rights omnibus "If you were me" (2003). In it a girl, dressed only in a shirt, who has wet her bed has to undergo the supposedly traditional punishment of being locked out until she fills a bucket with salt from her neighbours.


James Turnbull said...

The Gender Ministry is involved because it's actually been the "Ministry of Gender Equality and Family" since 2005. Despite a pre-election pledge to strengthen it, it's first on the chopping block in Lee Myeong-bak's government downsizing and restructuring plans, and will be merged with the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

There would be more attention about this in the media, but for women's groups being politically marginal. Instead, naturally the elimination of the Unification Ministry is getting more attention, even though Lee DID say that he would eliminate that.

ZenKimchi said...

Okay, so I didn't imagine it. I had heard about the punishment of going to the neighbors to collect salt ten years ago. There was an animated comical screensaver of a Korean kid getting kicked out and going to the neighbors in the village that I used to have. I'd like to find that again.