At the very least, it’s clear that there is a severe lack of sex education in the educational system across Korea. In fact, sex education here more or less remains stuck in the 1980s, as students often receive just an overview of the subject through simple cartoons that rely heavily on metaphors.'Related agencies' are passing the buck, however:
“All I remember about sex education is a videotape that showed a swarm of bees carrying pollen. That’s the only sex education I got from school,” recalled 35-year-old Choi Yu-jeong, a graphic designer living in northern Seoul, who attended middle school here in the late 1980s.
Fast forward to 2009, and things aren’t much different despite rapid changes in almost every other aspect of society.
Videos that teach through metaphors are still used by health teachers, and many students find them boring and useless. According to a survey conducted by the Aha Sexuality Education and Counseling Center for Youth in 2007, 43.8 percent of teenagers said the sex education they received from schools was neither helpful nor practical.
At the same time, the country is grappling with a high level of abortions and an increase in sexual crimes against and among youth. The number of abortions totaled 350,000 in 2005, according to the latest government figures, which is much higher than many other countries, experts say. Additionally, the National Police Agency said in July that sexual violence committed by teenagers jumped from 1,165 incidents in 2003 to a whopping 2,717 in 2008.
“It’s the schools’ role to allocate their budgets and decide whether they will have sex education programs,” said Cho Myeong-yeon, an official with the student health team of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.I've taught students from that school (hey, how often do you see Banghwa-dong in an English language newspaper?). Mind you, kids there might be better off being taught traffic safety; two students have died after being hit by cars in the last two years.
Earlier this year, the ministry issued new guidelines that suggest schools nationwide provide at least 17 hours of health classes each year. The courses, it says, should deal with seven different subjects including diseases, personal hygiene and sex education.
Some observers applaud the move, but they say it’s simply a start - not a solution.
“It’s a great achievement, primarily because we had no guidelines in the past,” said Kim Hye-sun, a chairperson at the Seoul Health Teachers Association and a health teacher at Samjeong Elementary School in Banghwa-dong, Gangseo District, western Seoul. “But we have to teach seven different subjects within 17 hours, and that isn’t enough to continuously educate children on diverse aspects of sex in organized ways.”
A two-year-old Joongang Ilbo article also looked at the same topic. As I pointed out here, one of the incidents that set off a debate about the need for improved sex education was this incident:
The shocking news of a middle school girl who became pregnant after she was raped on her way home from school and went into labor in the classroom last month had pushed the Health and Welfare Ministry to promote better sex education in schools. Afraid that she might be expelled from school, the young girl had kept her condition a secret from her teachers, parents and school mates. She was taking her final exams on June 27 when her water broke and she gave birth to a boy upon being rushed to the hospital.That's from a July 8, 1996 Korea Times article. Needless to say, I'm skeptical that much will come out of this current call for change, though I'd love to be proven wrong.
Wearing an obstetrical binder when she began getting big, the middle school girl hid her pregnancy from her teachers and friends at school. According to her homeroom teacher, because she was always a quiet child, no one thought anything was amiss. And since her working parents spent little time at home, they too did not notice anything was wrong, she added.