The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced a comprehensive three-year plan to strengthen the rights of children and youths, who account for 18 percent (a total 1,802,931) of Seoul’s population. Provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Seoul Child and Youth Rights Ordinance, enacted in 2012, have been developed into a specific and detailed policy and project.
Interest in policy related to child and youth rights has been gradually expanding, especially regarding the four basic rights of survival, protection, development, and participation, noted in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, such interest has not been translated into specific policies or projects due to the lack of a comprehensive and systematic analysis of the state of child and youth rights, as well as the lack of mid to long-term plans.
Until now, child and youth rights policies had been focused on “protection” and “problem resolution,” but from now on, the focus will be shifted to “participation” and “increasing self-motivated participation.” Moreover, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will thoroughly analyze vulnerable groups (minorities) of children and youths that are currently neglected by government policy, such as runaways, out-of-school children, children of multicultural families, working children and youths, and children suffering from disabilities or poverty, so that they can all be included in this policy.
The Youth Participation Commission, composed of 100 youths, was established so that youths may directly participate in the policy-making process. At 38 unauthorized, alternative educational institutions, which are not part of the formal school system, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is now providing support for free school lunches. In addition, Part-time Working Youth Rights Protection Centers have been set up in four different labor and welfare centers to inform youths of their rights regarding various issues, including overdue wages, overtime without pay, and work injuries. Marking another first, forty child and youth rights education instructors were trained and dispatched to kindergartens, daycare centers, and child welfare facilities, and one of the Citizen Rights Officers was assigned as a Child and Youth Rights Officer.
This comprehensive plan shall serve as a blueprint for the next three years (2014-2016). The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to continuously develop practical and comprehensive plans every three years, according to the ordinance, and provide a mid to long-term road map. With the goal of creating “Seoul, a Human Rights City with the Participation of Children and Youths,” this comprehensive plan comprises 12 major tasks and 31 detailed tasks organized under three categories: child and youth initiatives and participation, active promotion of safeguards for human rights, and the creation of living conditions conducive to protecting human rights.
To transform children and youths from receivers of policy benefits to actual policy decision-makers, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has set up a system that allows the involvement of children and youths in all processes of policy-making, including suggestions, decision-making, establishment, and budget planning. According to the results of the Report on Children’s Rights Situation in Seoul (2012), only 5.3 percent of children and youths expressed opinions in the policy-making process, which is very low.
In order to increase the participation of children and youths, the Child and Youth Participation Commission, composed of 100 children and youths, was established last April. The commission is divided into six areas — management, rights, education, culture, safety and welfare, and promotion — and members will suggest policy ideas at the ordinary meetings held every quarter or extraordinary meetings.
In October 2014, the Child and Youth Rights Festival will be hosted by the commission at Seoul Plaza, and in November, Mayor Park Won Soon and the 100 members of the commission will hold the “Hope Congress” to officially suggest and discuss policy ideas. Furthermore, the number of children and youths on the participatory budget committee will be increased from the five this year to 25 in 2015, which is ten percent of the total number of citizens on the committee. Also, in 2016, an early poll will be held to gather the opinions of those who will be affected by the major child and youth policies that will be implemented, and the results will be reflected in the final policies. The Seoul Metropolitan Government is currently in the process of establishing the specific details regarding the organization and the operation of these plans.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will actively promote policies intended to safeguard the rights of children and youths regarding residential and educational uncertainties, unreasonable labor practices, social prejudices, and abuse. In particular, the city government will prioritize the rights that are most desperately needed: 1) creating safety nets in local communities for child and youth runaways, 2) safeguarding educational, cultural, and welfare rights for out-of-school children and youths, 3) creating a system to protect youth labor rights, 4) researching the state of child and youth minorities and preparing a guideline for their rights, and 5) preventing child abuse and accidents.
Runaways: Increase the number of short-term and 24-hour shelters to 17 by 2016, and provide integrated support for employment and education
For child and youth runaways, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will provide safe shelters, where they can have access to proper food and a place to sleep without feeling stigmatized, as well as comprehensive services to support their independence, including employment support, vocational skills, and continuous education. According to the Police Agency, the number of child and youth runaways has more than doubled in less than ten years, from 13,000 in 2005 to 29,000 in 2012.
The number of short-term shelters, where children and youths can stay up to nine months, will be increased, from five in 2013 to seven in 2016, and the city government also plans to establish 24-hour “café” shelters that exercise minimum intervention and control over the children and youths staying there. Additionally, four more mobile shelters (buses), where children and youths can take a short break, will be set up this year, increasing the total number to 17 by 2016.
Comprehensive services that support their independence, including job shadowing, vocational training, and educational support services, will be offered through 25 youth counseling and welfare centers in various districts, with one additional center now providing a special program called “Dudeurim Zone” this year, making a total of eight centers that offer such service.
Out-of-School Children and Youths: First time offering support for free lunches at 38 alternative educational institutions, and planning to provide cultural vouchers in 2016
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is promoting “support policies for out-of-school children and youths,” who have been marginalized for various reasons, including not attending school or attending unauthorized, alternative educational institutions. As of 2012, the city government acknowledges that there are 17,924 out-of-school children, about 1.5 percent of the total number of students.
For the first time this year, the city government began providing financial support for free lunches to 500 elementary, middle, and high school students at 38 alternative educational institutions in Seoul, as it does for regular schools. The number of institutions that receive such support will rise to 42 by 2016. Also, the city government is providing support for teacher labor costs and other educational spending, depending on the particular situation at each school.
For all out-of-school children and youths, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will provide cultural vouchers for the first time, starting in 2016, so that out-of-school students of low income families will have the opportunity to receive the benefits that cultural performances, exhibitions, and movies can provide. The city government plans to allow out-of-school children and youths to enjoy their right to education, culture, and welfare without discrimination. Working with out-of-school youth support centers, the city government will also provide counseling and therapy tailored to children and youths.
Safeguards for Youth Labor Rights: Established Four Part-time Working Youth Rights Protection Centers
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will protect the labor rights of working youths, create a pleasant and safe labor environment, and strengthen the counseling and information system to prevent and fight violations of labor rights.
As the first step in this effort, the city government created and distributed 14,500 “Youth Labor Rights Guidebooks” to youths and business owners. The book explains the provisions regarding working conditions in labor-related acts, such as the Labor Standard Act, Minimum Wages Act, and Juvenile Protection Act, in an easy to understand way. It also contains information about making employment contracts, working hours (days off and breaks), wages (minimum wage, payments for overtime and night shifts, severance, and ways to receive delayed payments), and resolving disputes over unfair termination of employment.
Furthermore, Part-time Working Youths Rights Protection Centers have been established this year in four labor and welfare centers in Seoul (Seodaemun, Guro, Seondong, and Nowon) to help protect the rights of working youths.
Later this year, the city government will also promote a program to create districts favorable to part-time workers. Areas where there are many businesses employing part-time workers and that have high potential to draw on the diverse capabilities of local communities will be selected and provided with incentives, such as focused guidance and review and free labor counseling for exemplary businesses, in an effort to create better conditions for part-time workers.
Minorities: Carry out investigations by sector and institution this year → Prepare a child and youth rights guideline for institutions in 2015
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is expected to prepare and organize a solid groundwork for policies by conducting a thorough and accurate investigation of the lives of vulnerable groups, such as working youths, youths suffering from disabilities or poverty, and youths from multicultural families.
First, the city government will conduct detailed research on child and youth rights this year, by sector and institution, including shelters, child welfare facilities, group homes, and youth training centers. Then, based on the 2015 research results, it will establish a guideline for child and youth facilities, creating conditions more favorable to child and youth rights.
Child Abuse: Active and early public intervention and continuous management of abusive parents by local centers
In terms of child abuse, the Seoul Metropolitan Government established the Seoul Child Abuse Prevention Center, an organization specialized in child protection, as the comprehensive control center, as well as private child abuse prevention centers in various districts as “case centers,” to focus on preventing recurring cases of child abuse.
The Seoul Child Abuse Prevention Center will be in charge of receiving abuse reports 24-hours-a-day (1577-1391, 129, 119), as well as providing early intervention and carrying out onsite investigations and evaluation, while the local private centers will be in charge of cases of abuse and providing follow-up management of abusive children and the abused children.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will increase the number of Child Abuse Prevention Centers from the current seven to nine by 2016. In addition, two group homes, serving as temporary facilities for emergency situations involving abused children, are expected to be in operation by 2016.
To support children and youths in recognizing and exercising their rights, the city government will enhance human rights education, promote ordinance and rights issues, review and improve infrastructure for safeguarding rights, and develop spaces and programs for leisure and cultural activities.
According to the Report on Children’s Rights Situation in Seoul (2012), children and youths have a low awareness of their own rights and child rights conventions, and only 23.6 percent of adults were sufficiently aware of child and youth rights. In addition, chairmen and staff at the institutions for children and youths have not received training concerning such rights. 83.1 percent of child abuse cases are being committed at home by parents, leading the state of child and youth facilities to become a major social issue, as such facilities and staff remain ill-informed of child and youth rights.
First 40 Child and Youth Rights Education Instructors Trained, Rights Ordinance Published and Distributed in Cartoon Form
For a total of over 52,000 social workers, youth instructors, and child educators from about 7,000 institutions, directly dealing with children and youth in Seoul, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has made it mandatory for them to receive “rights training,” going into effect this year. Moreover, the city government plans to train about 40 children and youths’ rights instructors every year, for kindergartens, daycare facilities, and child welfare facilities.
The city government will also focus on promoting child and youth rights-related laws and systems so that a culture of respect for children and youths can take root, both at home and in local communities, by creating cartoons, animations, and using other forms of media to simply and clearly explain international conventions, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Seoul Child and Youth Rights Ordinance.
First Child and Youth Rights Protection Officer Appointed, Number of Hyu (休) Cafés Expanded to 75
A first for a regional government, the Seoul Metropolitan Government will designate a Child and Youth Rights Protection Officer, who will investigate and advise on cases of child and youth rights violations in the process of policy administration. One of the three Citizen Rights Protection Officers will be in charge, and the number of Citizen Rights Protection Officers will be expanded to 5 by 2016.
The Child and Youth Rights Protection Officer will have the authority to investigate rights violations that occur while carrying out tasks in administrative institutions in Seoul, as well as affiliated institutions, institutions established through investment of the city government, districts (delegated tasks), organizations entrusted with the tasks of the city government, and various facilities for children and youth that are supported by the city.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government will increase the number of Youth Hyu (休) Cafés from 31 to 75 by 2016, and provide free use of youth facilities in Seoul to youths who independently organize activities, such as extracurricular club meetings. Lastly, the city government will establish an organic relationship and cooperative system with the Office of Education as part of its plan to guarantee the rights of children and youths both in schools and local communities.