NHRCK Chairperson’s Statement on the 100th Anniversary of Children’s Day
-Children need love and understanding to grow as dignified human beings-
I would first like to congratulate all who are celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Children’s day in Korea. In May 1923, a year after Children’s Day was first declared, Mr Jeonghwan Bang, who made Children’s Day a century ago, wrote a letter titled ‘Requests to Adults’. ‘Be respectful and kind to children’, said Mr Bang, in his writings. Children’s Day is the day to remind ourselves that children, just like adults, are dignified and independent beings and have to be treated with respect.
According to the 'Convention on the Rights of the Child', which Korea joined in 1991, every child has a right to grow in a safe environment and ‘the best interests of the child’ should always be a primary consideration.
Although Korea has been annually celebrating Children’s Day, the level of happiness and the quality of life for the children and adolescents in Korea remain at a worrying state. Korea ranked 22nd out of 22 OECD member states in the Better Life Index for Children and Adolescents in 2021. Korea also ranked 31st out of 35 countries in the ‘International Survey of Children’s Well-Being(ISCWeB)’, measuring the level of happiness of children aged 10 and under.
With the prolonged pandemic, child abuse became more frequent and varied. The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s 'Statistics on Child Abuse 2020' shows a sharp increase in child abuse cases, from 18,700 cases in 2016 to 30,905 in 2020. The number of suspects who were accused of such crimes as dissemination of child sexual abuse material doubled, from 1,143 in 2018 to 2,851 in 2020. Sexual violence against children is still a pending issue in Korea, even after the notorious “‘Nth Room’ case”. One of the reasons for continued violence against children is because children are often not recognized as human beings with dignity.
The National Human Rights Commission of Korea will formulate measures to protect children from sexual exploitation in cyberspace and make the standard for determining emotional abuse and negligence. The Commission will also launch a fact-finding on the possible human rights violation which may occur when an abused child is being separated from his or her family for protection. The Commission will do its part in eliminating child abuse by identifying various types of abuse and tackling the issues.
In 2021, the National Human Rights Commission recommended the government to make changes to the system so that adolescents are allowed to join political parties and launch election campaigns, and provided comments to promptly legislate the laws enhancing the political participation rights for the adolescents. The Commission hopes that the rights of the adolescents in Korea to participate in the decision-making process are ensured so that the young people can have the power to decide their own path as independent human beings.
As we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Children’s Day, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea hopes the children in Korea grow in a loving environment where their dignity is recognized.