Teaching kindergarteners about homosexuality? Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education faces controversy over its Comprehensive Plan for Student Human Rights

After a five year hiatus, the Kimchi Queen is back! 

Coronavirus has been hard and boring. Hubby and I live in Pittsburgh now and life just seems like work then sit around the house then work some more. Since I'm no longer traveling for work, I decided to get back to blogging! (Also brush up my Korean) I'm probably never going to get back to posting every day like I did back in 2015, but I'm going to try to post something once a week. Mostly translations! Google translate has gotten much better over the past 5 years, but I do think there is still some value in curating and translating for the blogiverse. 

For my first translation, I'm going to translate an article from the Seoul Economy Daily (서울경제신문) on a controversial plan to protect students (including LGBTQ students) by my old employer - the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.  This article leans heavily conservative, so I might also find a more liberal take on this story. 

A controversy is brewing over the 3-year Comprehensive Plan for Student Human Rights put forward by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education (SMOE) beginning in 2021. This is because some members of  the church and parents believe it is a plan to push a leftist agenda on students as young as three years old. As the controversy spreads, including more than 20,000 people signing a petition against the plan on SMOE's homepage, SMOE clarified that the plan's purpose was to protect students' rights and provide education on human rights. 

According to the office of education, on the ministry's homepage on January 15th someone had posted a petition titled 'Against the Comprehensive Plan for Student Human Rights which will inculcate children as young as 3 on gender ideologies and biased ideas" and by 10:45 that morning approximately 23,400 people had signed. From the 12th of this month until the 11th of January, if more than 10,000 people had signed the ministry would have to provide a response, but this was reached within two days.

A petitioner who identified themselves as a parent wrote "I couldn't believe the contents of the planned Comprehensive Plan for Student Human Rights" and that "from three years old (pre-school, primary, middle, and high school) protecting the human rights of sexual minorities ... they are going beyond protecting rights to confusing the normal students." Furthermore, "This is making it possible for our democratic education to be corrupted into a biased, ideological education, especially at an age when children are highly susceptible to this type of inculcation" arguing that this plan violates the neutrality of education. 

The Comprehensive Plan for Student Human Rights is a plan established by the superintendent for schools in Seoul every three years in accordance with the Seoul Student Rights Ordinance. This plan has 20 initiatives, including protecting LGBTQIA students' rights and supplying guidelines to prevent discrimination. The fact that this includes not only polices related to LGBTQIA students in elementary, middle, and high schools, but also establishes education on sexual minorities at kindergartens has resulted in a backlash from parents and church groups. 

Recently, the Seoul Education Love Parent Association and other groups stated that "the strengthening of human rights education on sexual minorities and  dispatching investigators to investigate sexual harassment events" will "result in stigmatizing students who don't agree as they fear of being labeled as discriminatory."  Furthermore, as it relates to 'democratic citizenship education' content, 'We have to clarify what kind of citizen education we provide - whether that is as a socialist democracy or a liberal democracy." 

Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has released a press release repeating that "education on sexual minority rights is not compulsory and is implemented at the school level" and that "information on AIDS and homosexuality reflects the medical position of national medical institutions, the World Health Organization, the World Psychiatric Association, and the American Psychological Association. In addition, "It aims to  cultivate citizens of a democratic community through both training and capacity strengthening for teachers, and to develop instructional materials for democratic citizenship education, which has no relation to left-wing communist revolutionary ideologies." Regarding the contents related to LGBTQIA people, the statement added "LGBTQIA education is not suitable for kindergarten students due to their developmental stages," and that, "The content in the Comprehensive Human Rights Plan is to strengthen support for LGBTQ students."