Korea's welfare minister blasted for child abuse response

Korea's welfare minister blasted for child abuse response
South Korean Welfare Minister Moon Hyung-pyo (left) with Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Lee Yi Shyan in 2013.

The parliamentary welfare committee on Wednesday grilled Welfare Minister Moon Hyung-pyo over Korea's national child care system.

South Korea's child care system has faced intense criticism since reports surfaced that a day care worker had beaten a 4-year-old at a centre in Incheon on Jan. 8. The incident angered parents nationwide, pressuring officials to brainstorm quick solutions.

But critics dismissed government suggestions to address the situation as populist. They said the measures did not amount to a fundamental solution. Officials had proposed toughening penalties against abuse, raising the bar for potential child care centre workers, and installing more cameras.

Lawmakers from both sides of the political spectrum echoed the public criticism Wednesday.

"More cameras? Where's the money? The government must look over the entire system. They cannot and must not come up with an array of small solutions and say 'here's what we've got for you,'" said Rep. Lee Myoung-su of the ruling Saenuri Party.

Main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy Rep. Kim Yong-ik made similar criticism.

"Punishing abusive teachers is important, but the government must ensure that (workers at) day care centers receive the right wages, that they have the resources to do their job," Kim said.

NPAD Rep. Rhee Mok-hee also expressed frustration over an earlier statement by Welfare Minister Moon, who had said that nonworking mothers should avoid using public child care centers, as the limited space should be reserved for children of working moms.

"I think you should be thinking about how to make space available for children of non-working moms by finding ways to increase your ministry's budget," he told the minister/

"You seem to be following orders from the president and simply trying to live with whatever amount of money the Finance Ministry deals out," the lawmaker added.

Welfare Minister Moon apologised.

"I will travel countrywide to collect opinions from parents, child care centre staff, the government and other areas," the minister said.


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