Korean Law Demystified!

When Does Scolding Become Criminal for a Daycare Teacher (in Korea)?


The Seoul Southern District Court recently acquitted a daycare teacher and a principal of child abuse. They were indicted after the teacher had made an unruly 3-year-old “sit and stand” 70 times in a span of 6 mins (i.e., once / 5 secs). The court felt this did not amount to child abuse under Article 17 of the Child Welfare Act (아동복지법). – Link –

Article 17 (Prohibited Acts)

No one shall commit any of the following acts:

1. Trading children;

2. Having a child engage in lewd acts or arranging such acts, or committing sexual harassment or sexual abuse against a child that may make him/her feel sexually ashamed;

3. Committing physical abuse against a child that may hurt his/her body or injure his/her physical health and development;

4. Deleted; <by Act No. 12361, Jan. 28, 2014>

5. Committing emotional abuse against a child that may injure his/her mental health and development;

6. Abandoning a child under his/her protection and supervision, or neglecting the basic protection, rearing, medical treatment and education, including food, clothing and shelter;

7. Placing a disabled child to public viewing;

8. Having a child go begging, or asking for alms by utilizing a child;

9. Having a child do acrobatics that are harmful to the child’s health or safety for the purpose of public recreation or entertainment, or handing over a child to a third person to that end;

10. Mediating rearing of a child by any person who is not an intermediary agency having a legal competence, and thereby receiving, demanding, or promising to offer money or goods;

11. Using the money and goods donated or provided for children for purposes other than originally intended.

Note: According to Article 71, the punishment for prohibited act #3 (above) is imprisonment with labor for not more than 5 years or a (criminal) fine not exceeding 30 million won.

– Translation by KLRI (Korea Legislation Research Institute)

Reasoning for the acquittals:

1) “Sit and stand” 70 times in a span of 6 mins is tolerable even for such a child. Not enough to injure his/her physical health and development.

2) Even after the “sit and stand,” the child seemed unperturbed and went on playing with friends (as confirmed by CCTV footage).

3) The teacher voluntarily informed the parents of what had happened.

The prosecution has decided to appeal. (In Korea, acquittals can be appealed.) They clearly feel it was child abuse especially considering how young the child was. The prosecution is asking for a criminal fine of 3 mil and 2 mil won each. Below, a recent KBS news report about North Korean kids forced into hard manual labor.

FYI: In South Korea, corporal punishment (in primary and secondary schools) is banned under Article 31 of the ENFORCEMENT DECREE OF THE ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ACT (초ㆍ중등교육법 시행령). But it was not always thus. I attended 3rd grade here, and I remember our homeroom teacher slapped a student in the face (so hard) that one of his eardrums ruptured. But the shocking part was how blasé everybody seemed back then. Nothing became of the incident (to my knowledge). I believe violence only begets violence. The photo at the very top: hazing back in officer training school. Thanks for reading!

I also recommend this post: https://klawguru.com/2014/12/14/reporting-child-abuse-in-korea/

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