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Korea to introduce state exam for day care workers

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Published : 2015-01-27 15:54
Updated : 2015-01-27 21:51

The government plans to introduce a state-run qualification examination for day care workers amid rising concerns over the state’s lax monitoring of the child care system.

The new measure was announced Tuesday after public outrage escalated over several child abuse cases in preschool facilities.

Currently, anyone who completes over 65 credits of courses at a college-affiliated academy can work as a day care teacher. As of this month, more than 86,000 people have been certified, with some 22,000 working in day care.

In order to toughen the qualifications, the government will require a set curriculum and a personality test for those who seek to take the national day care exam, the Welfare Ministry said.

Childcare workers swear an oath at an anti-abuse training program held in Seoul on Jan. 22. (Yonhap)

In the long term, the ministry will push to restrict the exam applications to those who major in child-related studies, officials said.

Earlier this month, three female workers were arrested for allegedly hitting children under 5 for not finishing meals or following the class. One of them had even put wet tissues in the mouth of a 22-month-old, police said.

In addition to introducing the new state exam, the government will require all child care facilities to install surveillance cameras, the ministry said. Those without cameras will be barred from operations.

The surveillance camera requirement had been pushed at the National Assembly in 2010 but failed to pass the welfare committee after some lawmakers expressed concerns over privacy of day care employees.

The government will also double the reward for child abuse whistle-blowers to 20 million won ($18,500) to increase detection, officials said.

The ministry will also raise the number of assistant teachers at facilities to reduce the workload of day care workers while improving care quality.

“About 6,500 assistants will be provided nationwide and all costs will be borne by the state. While it is under discussion, around 200 to 300 billion won is expected to be earmarked for the move,” a ministry official told media.

Along with more workers, the ministry will open 450 additional public day care centers by 2017 in order to handle the high need from parents, officials said.

All these new regulations will be submitted to the parliament next month, officials added.

Meanwhile, the police authorities vowed to strengthen penalties against those who interfered in child abuse investigations.

Dispatched investigators have complained over difficulties in conducting inquiries into child abuse cases. There have been no legal punishments against people who refuse to help investigations.

A one-year jail term or a fine of up to 5 million won will be levied for obstructing a police investigation into child abuse allegations, authorities said.

By Lee Hyun-jeong (rene@heraldcorp.com)