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Education boards snub ‘indirect punishment’

Ideological tensions are have been reignited over a ban on corporal punishment at schools as some educational offices resist the “indirect punishment” system recently announced by the government.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced a revised education law on Friday which bans physical punishment but allows schools to adopt other disciplinary measures.

Since the corporal punishment ban, which took effect in Novembe, some teachers have complained of difficulty maintaining discipline, especially with disobedient students.

With specific guidelines planned to be offered within the month, proposed alternatives include push-ups, walking laps around a track and standing at the back of the classroom.

However, disputes seem to be continuing as four educational offices in Seoul and Gyeonggi, Gangwon and North Jeolla Provinces, said Wednesday that they have decided to reject the ministry’s policy, claiming such disciplinary measures also inflict physical pain on students and may violate their rights.

The corporal punishment ban was led by liberal educational heads, including Kwak No-hyun of the Seoul office, who took office in the June local election which was dominated by members of opposition parties.

The Seoul office bans all forms of physical punishment, regardless of their purpose and intensity, and suggests a face-to-face counseling program and volunteer work. But few schools have actually adopted the alternatives due to the lack of budget or manpower.

The Gyeonggi Educational Office, which has already established an ordinance on rights of students, said Wednesday that it plans to seek sanctions if schools change school regulations to adopt indirect punishment.

“Even though the office’s ordinance is subordinate to an enforcement decree of the ministry, it is a common sense in law that an exception is allowed when considering basic human rights such as physical liberty,” said Cho Byung-rae, spokesperson for the Gyeonggi office.

While the remaining three offices sought ways to block the adoption of indirect punishment, others led by liberal heads have yet to make a final decision saying more discussions were needed.

However, the Education Ministry was also firm in pushing ahead with indirect punishment.

“If there’s an agreement among school members, their decision should be respected. Resisting to the upper ordinance cannot be seen as the right of an educational head,” said a ministry official.

By Lee Ji-yoon (