Controversy over South Korean ban on corporal punishment at home

A recent government survey showed that 76.8 percent of adult South Koreans feel corporal punishment is necessary. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 May 2019
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Controversy over South Korean ban on corporal punishment at home

  • Reporting of child abuse rose more than 10-fold between 2001 and 2017 to 22,386 cases
  • Parental rights to physically discipline their children will be removed from the country’s civil code, an official said

SEOUL: A law allowing South Korean parents to physically discipline their children is to be scrapped, 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 10-fold between 2001 and 2017 to 22,386 cases, with 77 percent of the perpetrators known to be the victims’ parents.
“More in our society agree that child abuse is a serious social problem,” Seoul’s Welfare Minister Park Neung-hoo told reporters.
“But many are still lenient about corporal punishment. The ministry is to change this perception.”
Parental rights to physically discipline their children will be removed from the country’s civil code, he said, where they have been stated since 1960. Physical punishment was also allowed in schools until 2010.
A recent government survey showed that 76.8 percent of adult South Koreans feel corporal punishment is necessary, and Thursday’s announcement prompted controversy.
Lee Kyung-ja, head of a conservative group of parents, was adamantly opposed to any change.
“I’m going to continue beating my kids even if it requires writing a contract with them,” she told AFP.
“I’ll refuse to give them food and pay for their tuition if they don’t listen to their parents — this is how I’ll re-establish my rights as a parent.”
South Korean children have been repeatedly cited as the least happy in the OECD group of developed countries, facing a high-pressure education system and deeply rooted traditional values which emphasize obedience and respect toward parents and authority figures.
That makes young victims of domestic violence especially vulnerable, as filing a complaint or publicly criticizing a parent can be considered a disgrace — or even a “sin against heaven.”
With few facilities for abuse victims, many parents facing prosecution have their charges dropped as there is no-one else to care for their children, said youth rights activist Kang Min-jin.
Earlier this year a 12-year-old girl who had reported abuse by both her biological father and her stepfather to police was murdered by the stepparent.
“Many Koreans still view as their children as their properties, rather than separate human beings who have their own set of opinions and judgment,” said activist Kang.
But Lee Hee-bum, who leads the conservative Freedom Union group, said the government decision amounted to state interference in personal and family lives.
“One should be able to decide how to parent his or her kids independently,” he said.


Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

Updated 26 June 2019
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Sri Lanka’s president orders execution of 4 drug convicts

  • The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment
  • President Maithripala Sirisena says narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka’s president said on Wednesday that he has ordered the executions of four drug offenders who will be hanged in prison soon, amid alarm over drug-related crimes in this Indian Ocean island nation.
The executions if carried out will end a 43-year moratorium on capital punishment.
President Maithripala Sirisena told a media discussion on Wednesday that he has signed the death warrants including the days of the executions and sent them to prison authorities.
He said narcotic drugs have become a serious menace across the country with 300,000 addicts. According to Sirisena, 60 percent of 24,000 inmates have been jailed for drug-related offenses. Sri Lanka prisons are built to accommodate 11,000 people.
Sri Lanka last executed a prisoner in 1976. Currently, 1,299 prisoners are on death row, including 48 convicted of drug offenses.
Prison authorities are now in the process of recruiting two hangmen after two others quit without executing anyone.
At present, 26 people have been shortlisted for a two-day training, said Bandula Jayasinghe, an official at the Justice and Prison Reforms Ministry.
Drug trafficking is a capital offense in Sri Lanka, which authorities believe is used by peddlers as a transit hub.
Rights groups and foreign governments including the EU have previously criticized Sirisena’s suggestions to revive the death penalty, saying there is no perfect criminal justice system and the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated.
Sirisena, who visited the Philippines in January, praised President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on illegal drugs as “an example to the world.” Thousands of suspects, mostly urban poor, have been slain since Duterte took office in 2016. Rights groups have denounced what they say are extrajudicial killings. Police say most of the suspects were killed in encounters with officers.
Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, a religion that advocates non-violence. Sirisena has previously said the country has had positive influences from all religions but tough law enforcement is necessary to curb crime and maintain order.
In April, police publicly destroyed 770 kilograms (1,695 pounds) of drugs seized in 2016 and 2017. Police have seized 731 kilograms (1,608 pounds) of heroin, 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine and 1,607 kilograms (3,535 pounds) of marijuana so far this year.
Marijuana is the most widely used illegal drug in Sri Lanka, followed by heroin and cocaine. Drug-related arrests rose 2 percent in 2017 from the previous year to 81,156.