Korea sees rise in abuse cases involving migrant children

Rep. Lee Jasmine of the minor progressive Green Justice Party speaks during a plenary session at the National Assembly in  Seoul, Feb. 29. Courtesy of Lee Jasmine's office

Korea is seeing a growing number of abuse cases against children from migrant backgrounds, government data showed Monday.One lawmaker urged the government to devise improved support systems to safeguard them, emphasizing that many of the existing measures only cater to children of Korean nationality.The number of reported cases of abuse against migrant children has grown over the past five years — 230 in 2018, 346 in 2019, 407 in 2020, 576 in 2021 and 596 in 2022 — according to Ministry of Health and Welfare data released by Rep. Lee Jasmine of the minor progressive Green Justice Party. The figure jumped 2.5-fold during that period.Among them, the number of confirmed cases of child abuse also surged from 175 in 2018 to 386 in 2022, marking a staggering 120-percent increase.Some 80 percent of the perpetrators were parents, followed by teachers at nursing facilities and relatives.Despite the escalating numbers, Lee emphasized that the government lacks adequate preparation to effectively safeguard migrant children from abuse.In Korea, under the Act on Special Cases Concerning the Punishment of Child Abuse Crimes, a juvenile victim can be separated from the offender if there is a significant and imminent risk of repeat abuse. In those instances, victimized children may be placed in shelters and provided with a living allowance.

However, children of foreign nationalities cannot benefit from such protective measures, because they are not defined as eligible recipients under the National Basic Living Security Act.The ministry recommends local municipalities to provide financial support for child victims of abuse with foreign nationalities with their budgets, but fails to provide any specific guidelines.As a result, the amount of allowance provided to such victims depends solely on the discretion of local governments.For example, North Jeolla Province offered approximately 750,000 won ($540) of living allowance per child in 2021, while Pohang in North Gyeongsang Province provided 16,000 won per month for two children over four and five months, respectively, between 2022 and 2023.The southern port city of Ulsan, on the other hand, provided no money between 2019 and 2023.Lee suggests that migrant children are particularly vulnerable to abuse occurring at home due to their fear that their legal status of stay may be threatened if their parents’ abuse is reported to the authorities.“Korea needs to improve its discriminatory administrative system that determines the range of protection from violence based on a victim’s nationality and registration, and protect 스포츠토토존 all migrant children from abuse,” the lawmaker said.

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