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Schools in Seoul removing regulations on students' underwear color

Photo shows students withing umbrellas in the rain at a high school in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)
Photo shows students withing umbrellas in the rain at a high school in Chuncheon, Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)
Schools in Seoul have begun scrapping rules requiring their students to don all-white underwear in the face of mounting criticism that such a policy can violate human rights, the city's education office said Tuesday.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said a total of six girls' middle and high schools have removed or revised their dress codes that regulate the color of students' underwear and socks, and 25 more plan to do so by the end of this year.

The office said the 31 of the city's 129 girls' middle and high schools, almost 25 percent, were found to still have such regulations despite its efforts to remove them.

South Korean schools' strict dress code policies, which had been implemented to strengthen students' focus on academics and create uniformity among peers, have been at the center of criticism in recent years for harming students' privacy and breaching their basic rights, such as freedom of expression.

In May, a civic youth group Asunaro filed a petition to the National Human Rights Commission of Korea against 33 elementary, middle and high schools in Seoul for restricting students' rights to choose their own hairstyles and clothing. The number represented about 2.5 percent of the 1,316 elementary, middle and high schools in the city.

Those schools had rules banning their students from going to school and back home in training suits, having their hair permed or dyed, enforcing all-white underwear for girls or regulating the color of socks and stockings in spite of the city council's almost decade-old student human rights ordinance, according to the group.

The ordinance was introduced in 2012 by the Seoul Metropolitan Council to ensure students' freedom to cater to their own hairstyles and clothing. In March this year, the city council removed a clause in Article 12 of the ordinance that stated that dressing can be restricted by school rules, under mounting pressure to do more to bar schools from excessively restricting students' rights.

Critics say the move had no big impact as the ordinance itself is not legally binding.

The Seoul education office said it will also recommend 21 coeducational schools improve their outdated dress codes by next month or be forced to make the change if they refuse. (Yonhap)

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