Corporal punishment of children breaches their rights to respect for human dignity and physical
integrity and to equal protection under the law. It is recognised by the Committee on the Rights
of the Child and other treaty bodies, as well as by the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence
against Children, as a highly significant issue, both for asserting children’s status as rights
holders and for the prevention of all forms of violence.
The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children has been regularly briefing
the Committee on the Rights of the Child on this issue since 2002, and since 2004 has similarly
briefed the Committee Against Torture, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination
Against Women, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Human
Rights Committee. There is growing progress now across all regions in challenging this very
common form of violence against children. But we are concerned that many States persist in
ignoring treaty body recommendations to prohibit and eliminate all corporal punishment. We
hope that the UPR Process will give particular attention to states’ response, or lack of response,
to the concluding observations from treaty bodies, on this and other key issues.
In June 2006, the Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted General Comment No. 8 on
“The right of the child to protection from corporal punishment and other cruel or degrading
forms of punishment”, which emphasises the immediate obligation on states parties to prohibit
all corporal punishment of children, including within the home. Other treaty bodies and also
regional human rights mechanisms have condemned all corporal punishment. In October 2006,
the report of the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children was submitted to
the General Assembly. It recommends universal prohibition of all corporal punishment, setting a
goal of 2009.
This briefing describes the gaps in prohibition in the Republic of Korea, despite repeated
recommendations by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
We hope the Review will highlight with concern the Republic of Korea’s record of ignoring
treaty body recommendations and strongly recommend that the government introduce
legislation as a matter of urgency to prohibit corporal punishment of children in all settings,
including in the home.
I: Legality of corporal punishment in Republic of Korea
Corporal punishment is lawful in the home. Children have limited protection from violence under the
Child Welfare Act, the Penal Code, the Special Act on Punishment of Domestic Violence, the Act on
Prevention of Domestic Violence and Victim Protection, and the Constitution.
Research in 2005, carried out as part of a comparative study of children’s experiences in 8 countries in
Southeast Asia and the Pacific, sought the views of 152 children in the Republic of Korea. Nearly all
(97.4%) reported having experienced corporal punishment in the home; 93.6% experienced corporal
punishment at school. Punishments mentioned by children included being slapped, whipped, beaten
with a broomstick, punched, kicked and pinched.1
Schools and other settings
Corporal punishment is lawful in schools under article 18(1) of the Act on Primary and Secondary
Education, which states: “The head of a school may discipline or otherwise guide students, under the
conditions as determined by Acts and subordinate statutes or school regulations, as deemed necessary
for education …” Article 31(7) of the Enforcement Decree of the Act states: “When the chief of school
educates pupils in accordance with the regulations specified in article 18, paragraph 1 of the Act,
he/she shall employ such disciplinary or admonitory methods as not causing physical pain to pupils
except in cases unavoidable for the purpose of education.”
In the penal system, corporal punishment is unlawful as a sentence for crime and as a disciplinary
measure in penal institutions.
There is no explicit prohibition of corporal punishment in alternative care settings.
II: Recommendations by human rights treaty monitoring bodies
The Committee on the Rights of the Child first recommended prohibition of corporal punishment of
children in the Republic of Korea in 1996, in its concluding observations on the state party’s initial
report (CRC/C/15/Add.51, para. 22). In 2003, following examination of the second report, the
Committee regretted the insufficient follow up to this recommendation (CRC/C/15/Add.197, para. 7),
and stated (paras. 38 and 39):
“The Committee notes with great concern that corporal punishment is officially permitted in
schools. The Committee is of the opinion that corporal punishment does not conform with the
principles and provisions of the Convention, particularly since it constitutes a serious violation
of the dignity of the child (see similar observations of the Committee on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights, E/C.12/1/Add.79, para. 36 [re UK]). The fact that the Ministry of Education
guidelines leave the decision on whether to use corporal punishment in schools to the
individual school administrators suggests that some forms of corporal punishment are
acceptable and therefore undermines educational measures to promote positive, non-violent
forms of discipline.
“The Committee recommends that the State party:
a) implement the recommendation of the National Human Rights Commission that the relevant
legislation and regulations be amended to expressly prohibit corporal punishment in the home,
schools and all other institutions;
b) carry out public education campaigns about the negative consequences of ill-treatment of
children in order to change attitudes to corporal punishment, and promote positive, non-violent
forms of discipline in schools and at home as an alternative to such punishment.”
1 Beazley, H., S. Bessell, et al., 2006, What Children Say: Results of comparative research on the physical and emotional
punishment of children in Southeast Asia and Pacific, 2005, Stockholm, Save the Children Sweden