SKorea: Debate over equal rights for gay students
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SKorea: Debate over equal rights for gay students

Original article in Korean is at this link.

The Seoul Office of Education committee on the students’ bill of rights (학생인권조례) has begun a controversy by considering whether it should allow “homosexuality”. The committee said that “we must respect fundamental rights regarding sexual identity” but most parents and teachers are perplexed that “we are going to encourage homosexuality.”

On the 19th the Office of Education received from the committee, which is chaired by Kunkuk University professor Han Sang-hui, proposed changes to the students’ bill of rights. The committee, which on the 7th of last month first considered allowing candlelight vigils at school and loosening restrictions on hair and clothing regulations, added article 7, clause 1, to eliminate discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

This means that discriminating against students for appearing to be homosexual would be banned. Progressive groups have criticized this for “encouraging homosexuality”.

However, the committee believes that “there are in fact students confused about their sexual identity and cannot conceal this fact at school” and therefore included the clause. Moreover, the proposed revision would delete article 3, clause 3 stating that “students’ rights may be restricted in school regulations, with student participation, in order to achieve necessary educational goals.” If there are problems with unusual rules such as allowing candlelight vigils, freedom in hair styles and clothing, and homosexuality, then the school restrict student activities by amending school order regulations.

The committee said that “the students’ bill of rights is not a law, so restricting students’ rights would be a constitutional violation, so the clause on school regulations was deleted.” Chair Han Sang-hui said that “in our current educational system students who are known to be homosexual are discarded… this is in the context of allowing those students to take part in regular activities and is not a judgment on the value of homosexuality.” Lim Jeong-hun, a lawyer for the Korean Teachers & Education Workers’ Union, said that “there are teachers who treat homosexual students like medical patients… this is a positive proposal to safeguard students from being ostracized when their sexual orientation becomes known.”

On the other side, Choi Mu-suk, a representative of an organization of parents (학교를사랑하는학부모모임), said that “during the teenage years the line between liking someone and loving someone can become confused… if this proposal is accepted then we worry that there could be problems.” Park Beom-deo, principal of Eonnam High School and chair of the Seoul association of middle and high schools (서울중등교장협의회), said that “allowing candlelight vigils and homosexuality in schools is something we are not ready for… ordinary students could have different thoughts and be encouraged to become homosexual.”

Within the committee there was debate over the clause on homosexuality. One member, who requested anonymity, said that “there were opinions against the inclusion of the clause on homosexuality… Personally, I think there could be problems at school if students make their sexual identity clear at school.”

As the debate grows, those within the Office of Education are focusing on the issue. The Office is in the process of considering the differents points of view and the law, and will present a final decision to the Seoul City Council in early November.