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The Peninsula

South Korea’s Unsupervised Children

Published March 13, 2020
Author: Korea View
Category: South Korea, Culture

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

What Happened

  • On March 4, three children died in a house fire. There were no adults on location.
  • On February 19, a seven-year-old child died while alone at home with her brother.
  • Last year, the government implemented a law to prevent children from being left alone on school buses.
  • According to the 2015 Korea Consumer Agency survey, 69.1% of child accidents occur in homes.

Implications: The government’s childcare intervention in South Korea is limited because of strongly-held cultural attitudes. Most families do not consider leaving a child alone at home as neglect. Despite recurring accidents affecting unattended children, no legal actions have been taken to set minimum age requirements or guidelines at which minors can be left unsupervised at home. Childcare is traditionally considered a private matter in South Korea and public intervention is not welcomed. Consequently, while the government has promulgated a series of child protection measures in public spaces, such as school buses, private homes remain mostly off-limits to public policy in South Korea.

Context: Beyond childcare, South Korean society traditionally has a negative attitude towards social intervention in family issues. For instance, gender inequality within the family has been a persistent issue in South Korea. However, the government’s efforts to promote gender equality and work-life balance of women have reportedly yielded gradual improvements. Such government measures were advanced by women themselves. It is difficult to expect a similar level of advocacy for child protection, however, since children are largely barred from policy advocacy.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Gordon Henning, Soojin Hwang, Hyungim Jang, and Ingyeong Park.

Photo from hjl’s photostream on flickr Creative Commons.

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