Wednesday, September 16, 2009

State of the youth - Children's Day edition

Hey, better late than never. I originally was going to post this around Children's Day - hence the title - but never got around to it until now, so most of these articles are from that time.

This Donga Ilbo article looks at sex crimes against children and how revealing sex offenders IDs is proving to not be effective.
Sexual crimes against children under 13 has jumped 59 percent in recent years, going from 721 cases in 2004, 738 in 2005, 1,081 in 2007 and 1,220 last year. Requests for the personal information of sexual offenders have numbered just 48 between July last year to last month. This means the system allowing the disclosure of personal information of such criminals has proven an ineffective deterrent to such crimes.
The article goes on to say that the information is available only at police stations (the procedure involves a written form) but that plans to put the information on the internet have been held up by human rights concerns. This confuses me, as information about sex criminals who have victimized children has been placed on the internet for years (with the first instance of this in 2000 crashing the Commission on Youth Protection's web site due to the sudden increase in traffic. At any rate, the article goes on to break down statistics from a report:
Homes of the victims or criminals are the most common sexual crime scenes. The number of sexual crimes against children conducted at homes was 37. Twenty-eight sexual crimes occurred on the street; 20 on staircases or elevators of apartments; 17 at public baths; 13 at playgrounds or public and amusement parks; and eight in cars. By crime type, the number of attempted and successful rapes was 14; sexual harassment 132; purchased sex three; and distribution of pornographic materials one.

By age, those in their 40s accounted for the largest share (35 cases) of sexual offenders against children, followed by those in their 50s (31); 20s (27); 30s (26); 60s (14); 70s (eight); and 80s (one). Sexual crimes against children conducted by those aged over 50 accounted for 36.7 percent (54 cases). [Someone has a problem with math]

Most of the offenders committed their crimes nearby their residence. According to the material, 48 of the crimes happened within townships, villages or small districts where criminals reside and 63 occurred within a city, county or district where the criminals lived. Gyeonggi Province had 26 sexual offenders against children, followed by Seoul with 18; South Gyeongsang Province 15; South Jeolla Province 14; North Gyeongsang Province 11; and Gwangju 10.
This article about how TV programs with adultery will affect children also gives us some statistics:
According to the National Police Agency, the number of adolescent victims of sexual violence is on the rise, from 1,811 in 2006 and 2,136 in 2007 to 2,717 in 2008. Shin Gi-sook, the director of Sunflower Children's Center for children victims of sexual violence, said "It's alarming that due to the influence of TV, an increasing number of children think of sexual violence as mere play."
The article seems to confuse crimes against youth with crime by youth. We're also told that
The influence on young minds can be substantial, claims Sung Young-shin, a psychology professor at Korea University. "You have a lot of repressed anger in your adolescent years, and TV dramas on immoral subjects could spur the latent indignation of these young people."
I thought the culprit bandied about in the media was generally that it was the effect of watching online porn (apparently depictions of rape are not uncommon) combined with a lack of sex education that led to the rise in sex crimes among youth. Speaking of young victims of sexual violence, an article that caught my eye in the news the other day was about a 58 year old minister being arrested for raping a 9 year old girl. In Gwangju's Seo-gu at the end of last December Mr. A enticed 9 year old B, who was playing alone in an apartment's playground, back to his apartment, forced her to watch erotic videos, and raped her four times. Mr. A has in the past worked in the prison system as a pastor, so he may be familiar with the prison that he'll be sent to. Of course, that's assuming he goes to prison for this, which is not a given, considering how little rape - or paying children for sex - is punished in Korea.

In another story, from Bucheon, a 16 year old girl suffocated after a fire began in the room she was left in after being gang-raped by several high school boys. The boys had gotten the girl drunk at a noraebang and taken her back to one of their rooms where they raped her. They went to bring over some more friends to rape the girl who was left in the room alone and passed out but one of the two candles they left going in the room caused a fire and the girl suffocated. One wonders what kind of punishment they will receive (it's reminiscent of another case in which middle school boys got a girl drunk until she passed out, gang raped her, and then left her outdoors to freeze to death).

This case may win the 'it's time to bring back crucifixion as a form of punishment' award:
Police are questioning a 32-year-old man identified as Jeong for running an online suicide blog and having allegedly raped a teenager who "hoped to commit suicide with him,'' according to the Seocho Police Station.

Jeong met an unidentified 17-year-old girl through his blog, which supports suicide. He asked her to commit suicide with him and met her last Friday.

However, he took her to a motel in Seoul and raped her instead. He later tried to kill her, but did not attempt suicide, the police said. It was revealed later that Jeong had allegedly raped another teenager a day before in the same manner.
Hopefully this fine example of humanity gets more than a slap on the wrist.

To prevent convicted sex criminals from re-offending, from last year, some were forced to wear electronic anklets which monitored their location. In April this was extended to kidnappers as well:
From July, convicted kidnappers will be obligated to wear an electronic anklet monitoring their whereabouts around the clock for up to a decade, the Ministry of Justice said Sunday. A bill forcing convicted kidnappers to wear the gadget was passed at the National Assembly Friday and the law will take effect in three months. [...] The monitoring program was first introduced last September for surveillance of convicted sex offenders, chronic repeat offenders.

A report, which shows that the recidivism rate among convicted kidnappers was higher than other criminals, motivated the ministry to include them in the program. According to a survey of former convicts between 2002 and 2007, 9.2 percent of convicted kidnappers committed similar crimes again, higher than the averaged recidivism of 8.1 percent among those found guilty of the four major felonies ㅡ homicide, arson, rape, and burglary, showing an increase in the number of kidnappings in recent years ㅡ 140 cases in 2006, 125 in 2007 and 153 as of October in 2008.

The recidivism rate among those wearing the 24-hour-monitored gadget for the first six months stood at only 0.46 percent, down from an average of 5.2 percent before its introduction.
Moving away from crime, this article looks at the depressing conditions children of migrant workers find themselves in:
According to the Korea Immigration Service, some 17,000 undocumented children under age 16 reside in Korea as of March. The government has failed to provide them with access to medical care, however.

The Migrant Health Association in Korea, a private organization, has set up a network of hospitals to provide health services for migrant workers, but because such hospitals are limited in number and proximity, illegal foreign workers use nearby hospitals. [...]

Korean law allows undocumented children to attend school, but reality paints a different picture. A 12-year-old from a Philippine household was admitted to elementary school in Seoul after being rejected by three schools due to opposition from Korean parents. The school that eventually admitted him was also reluctant to do so at first, but he got help from Seongdong Migrant Center.

Shin Hye-yeong, in charge of education for children of migrant workers at the center, said, “Forty percent of elementary schools refuse to take children of migrant workers,” adding, “Given the difficulty in getting a primary education as guaranteed by law, it`s obvious they will face more difficulty in getting a secondary education.”

According to the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, 1,402 of 17,000 children of migrant workers attend school – 981 in elementary, 314 in middle, and 107 in high school. This means that most of the children are being left uneducated.

The fact that "Forty percent of elementary schools refuse to take children of migrant workers," along with the staggeringly high number of children not going to school, and does not bode well for Korea's future. But then, I suppose it doesn't matter, since the aim is to deport them all anyway.

Another article gives us this cheerful news:
Half of Korean children and teenagers say they are unhappy, the results of a survey released yesterday said. The survey was conducted by a Yonsei University research center for social development and polled 5,000 students from the fourth to 11th grades nationwide from February to May this year. The results were compared to those from a United Nations Children’s Fund in 2006.

The center said, “Korean society is well structured in health, education and safety, but the happiness level of children and teenagers is low.” The survey measured subjective happiness of students by asking them six questions on areas such as health, satisfaction with school life, and material happiness.

On subjective happiness, Korean students got 71.7 out of 100 points, the lowest among 20 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The figure was more than 40 points lower than that of leader Greece (114). The share of students who consider themselves “happy” was 55.4 percent, much lower than the OECD average of 84.8 percent.

Going to the subjective life satisfaction index with one being the lowest and five the highest, elementary school students got four points; middle school students 3.4, and high schoolers 3.1. For the index surveying scholastic achievement, education participation, and desire to study, Korea ranked second with 120 points among 24 OECD countries after Belgium (121 points).
On top of this, the Korea Herald has an article titled "Korea ranks 3rd in accident-related deaths."
South Korea reported that 8.7 out of every 100,000 children under 15 years old died annually at the end of 2005 due to traffic accidents, drowning, falls and other injuries, the report by the National Statistical Office said.

It is the third highest rate among the 25 member countries of the OECD following Mexico and the United States which reported 13.6 and 9.2 of death rates, respectively. The OECD average stood at 5.6, the report showed. Between 1991 and 1995, South Korea had topped the list in terms of children death rates with 25.6 out of every 100,000 losing lives due to accidents.

Traffic accidents accounted for 42.7 percent of the total deaths, followed by drowning with 20 percent. Falls made up 7.9 percent of deaths, while murder and suicides also took up 8.7 percent and 5.3 percent, the report showed.
Brian in Jeollanam-do has more on this here. It's interesting how much these rates have dropped since the early 1990s; this may be related to the drop in deaths from traffic accidents since that time. To be sure, traffic safety really needs to be reinforced, and the wearing of seat belts should be encouraged (or penalized for non-compliance, though there's little point if the penalties aren't going to be enforced). Does the murder rate not seem a little high? I was thinking, after reading this, that drowning, making up 20% of all accidental deaths, seemed very high. Then one of my students told me that a third grade boy in her school drowned over the holiday, and that students were leaving flowers on his desk (she didn't know him, but another of my students was friends with him). A quick search turned up the story here, that a 15 year-old boy from Banghwa-dong was found dead on the beach in Gangneung Monday morning. What a horrible Children's Day vacation that family must have had.

The Herald also provides some statistics on Korea's youth population, which continues to decline.
According to a report by the National Statistical Office, the population of people aged between 9 and 24 is estimated to be 21.3 percent, or 10.38 million, of the total this year, down 1 percent from a year earlier.

The year-on-year decline in the nation's youth contrasts with an estimated 0.3 percent growth in the overall population, which is currently estimated to be around 48.74 million, the report showed. The ratio of the cited age group to the total population has been on a steady decline since peaking at 36.9 percent in 1978, the report noted.
The drop in students has led to schools closing over the past few years, in the countryside and in Seoul.

Also dropping has been the age at which students start smoking, so much so that anti-smoking campaigns are now taking place in elementary schools. Here are some statistics:
According to a survey of 80,000 secondary students by the government's disease control center, the percentage of male middle school students who smoke rose to 11.3 percent in 2007 from 9.6 percent in 2005. The corresponding rate for female middle school students edged from 6.3 percent to 6.6 percent.

In particular, the smoking rates for male and female middle school first graders reached 6.5 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively. The smoking rates for male and female high school students totaled 24.3 percent and 11.3 percent, respectively, as of 2007. The nation's overall smoking rate stood at 21.9 percent last year, according to the health ministry.
There have been several articles about corporal punishment as well:
Late last month, the Incheon District Court sentenced a female elementary school teacher who hit two of her second grade students more than 80 times in October last year for not having done their homework to eight months in prison suspended for two years. It was one of the harshest rulings handed down on a teacher involving corporal punishment. The teacher is appealing the sentence.

According to court documents, the teacher hit a boy, identified as Kang, and a girl named Na for not having done their homework. When they had done it, she called them liars and caned them, which required them to undergo two to three weeks of medical treatment.

The Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education suspended the teachers' license for just three months. A group of activists and netizens are staging an online campaign, demanding stronger punitive measures and are moving to file petitions to the education office and the court.
Around this time was a well known case when a 17-year-old high school student in Gwangju hung himself after a teacher beat him on his feet 110 times 'along with another classmate for being "absent without notification" for two hours during self-study session.' The teacher was the daughter of the school principal, and I have no idea what, if any, punishment she received. In another case in Gwangju, a female teacher at a girls’ high school used corporal punishment on students after making them remove their skirts because they had received poor grades (article translated here).

It's not just students who can face a hard time in the classroom, however. Their mothers can have a hard time too.
In more affluent countries, schools usually hire janitors to do the cleaning but in Korea, students are assigned to those tasks. However, first and second graders are considered too young to do chores like distributing food at lunchtime and cleaning classrooms, so they ask their mothers to do it instead. It is not certain when the practice started, but it has been going on for decades.

The way it happens is quite simple. Schools send a letter to parents soon after their child enrolls asking if they are “willing and able” to do chores on behalf of their children. Those who sign up are assigned to a team of two or three parents, usually the mothers, who have duties around two times a month.

On the surface, this may appear to be a voluntary act of goodwill, but the back story tells another tale. Most mothers worry that if they don’t help with the cleaning, the teacher might discriminate against their child. [...]

“My child’s teacher, with her arms folded, pointed to the corner of the room and asked me to clean it,” a mother wrote on a Web site ( “It made me mad and I wanted to know what the teacher thought of me.”

Working mothers are not completely exempt from cleaning duty. Some take a day off from work to do their time or they may ask their own mother or mother-in-law for help.

If that’s not feasible, and they can afford it, they hire someone to do the job for them, paying between 20,000 won ($15), to 30,000 won. Stationery stores in front of elementary schools often carry advertisements for people offering this kind of service.

But sending a hired hand creates other problems. Working mothers say they feel estranged from the teacher and the other mothers because, unlike the mothers who don’t work, they aren’t able to talk as often with their child’s teacher or socialize with the other mothers.
Okay, something a little more upbeat:
Kim Sang-gon, superintendent-elect of Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education, said the education office will secure enough funds to phase in free lunches to all elementary school students in the province by the second semester of next year.

He also will expand the range of recipients to some middle and high school students from low-income brackets and farming or fishing villages.

According to the plan proposed by Kim's transition team, the local education office will extend the meal service to 1.01 million students, all 880,000 elementary school students and 130,000 middle and high school students, making up 55 percent of students in the province.

This is the first time for a provincial office of education to serve free meals to all elementary school students. The service will first be extended to 150,000 elementary school students in rural areas from this September and all elementary students will be covered by the second semester of 2010.

"The provision of school meals is one of Kim's core ideas,'' an official of the transition team said. "The goal of this policy is to guarantee the basic livelihood of students so they can study despite their parents' low income.''
This is a good start. I was amazed when my mother told me how many students at the small town elementary school she taught at would have gone without breakfast had the school not offered free breakfasts to those who needed them. The unseen poverty that exists in Canadian communities is quite a bit higher than many in those same communities realize.

This is also a step forward, I think:
A safety program which aims to protect children aged 12 or under has helped prevent a series of crimes includ[ing] sexual assaults since it was set up less than a year ago, according the National Police Agency. The children safety keeper program, which was unveiled on April 14, 2008, intervened in 38 incidents as of the end of March this year, according to the police.

The measures were conceived after two elementary schoolgirls - Lee Hye-jin, 11, and Woo Yae-seul, 8, - were kidnapped, sexually assaulted and strangled in Anyang, on the outskirts of Seoul, in December 2007. Three months later, the Supreme Court sentenced [the] killer to death.

Under the program, the police designate supermarkets, restaurants and stationery shops located near kindergartens, elementary schools and apartment complexes as “children safety keepers.”

Staff in these facilities sport yellow stickers and posted signs indicate that children in danger can seek assistance. The program aims to thwart school violence, kidnapping, sexual attacks and help children who are lost. The designated helpers dial 112 for help if they encounter children in distress.

The program, which has 24,417 participating shops, was modeled after Australia’s Safety House Program, established in 1979. Houses or businesses marked with the program’s yellow smiling logo allow children to easily recognize an approved safe place if they find themselves in danger.

However, the children safety keeper program here is not widely known. “I haven’t heard about it from any of my neighbors,” said Kim Su-jin, a mother of an elementary schoolgirl in Sangdo-dong, western Seoul.

The government will allocate 650 million won ($523,250) to the program this year for the first time. So far, local communities have had to foot its costs. But while government aid is welcome, the amount will barely cover the cost of producing signs and promotion, according to some insiders.

Kim Hee-chull, a lawmaker from the opposition Democratic Party, has proposed a revision to the law for “protecting and helping missing children” that could boost the program. The revision would give legal standing to businesses participating in the program and the National Police Agency and the Education Ministry will be in charge of monitoring and publicizing the system.

Background checks on those who apply to join the program will be mandatory under the proposed revision.
Well, I'd certainly hope there would be background checks. This reminds me of what in Canada is known as the Block Parent Program.

And that ends the Children's Day edition of 'State of the youth'. I'm sure the Christmas edition will be ready sometime next summer...

1 comment:

Helen said...

Am I too savage if I say the sexual offenders should become eunuchs as a punishment?

Children should be protected by adult.
There's no reasonable reason to give them a corporal punishment.
But I have no idea what can we do for them in this kind of situation.
A few months ago, I was told by one of students that a middle school boy who attends our hagwon hit his female teacher's face with his fist extremely in class at school. So his classmate took a video with a cell phone. But his mom came to school right after that and took it away and smashed it to remove the evidence..
What an hopeless and eccentric situation!
Maybe he had a lot of repressed anger in his mind..maybe because of adults including his parents.

I really felt sympathy for this part.

'On the surface, this may appear to be a voluntary act of goodwill, but the back story tells another tale. Most mothers worry that if they don’t help with the cleaning, the teacher might discriminate against their child.'

It will be continued as long as they don't give some money to teachers.

Anyway, I was yelling at children today in my class again. It was the second time!