Back To Top

‘Spicy’ school meals are not human rights violation: NHRC

Korean school lunches have come under fire for being too spicy (Korea Herald file photo)
Korean school lunches have come under fire for being too spicy (Korea Herald file photo)
The National Human Rights Commission on Monday dismissed a petition that claimed spicy foods in school lunches is a human rights violation.

“Political Mamas”, a nonprofit civic group which deals with comprehensive social issues related to childcaring, filed a petition in November 2021 demanding spicy menu items on school lunches be corrected.

“Elementary schools in Korea provide the same meals to every student, from age 8 to 13. If there is a kindergarten attached to the school, 5- to 7-year-old kindergarteners also receive same meals. As a result, many lower grade children are unable to eat them or suffer from stomachaches due to spicy school meals,” the group wrote in the petition.

The group claimed refusing spicy food is not about wrong eating habits, and forcing children to eat something they do not want should be considered abuse. The petition added that “providing food that some children cannot eat, causing and neglecting hunger is a clear act of discrimination and a violation of human rights.”

However, the NHRC rejected the petition, saying that spiciness is subjective and it is impossible to set an accurate standard for how much spiciness is tolerable for children.

The NHRC also said the Ministry of Education is making efforts to distribute guidelines about balanced meals and providing diligent support to schools.

“Comprehensively examining the fact that schools at all levels are also striving to provide less spicy meals by using soy sauce for spicy foods, this case does not constitute a violation of human rights,” the NHCR concluded.

Political Mamas said they will appeal the decision. The group urged change, stating: “Spiciness is pain, not taste. The right to choose non-spicy food should be guaranteed.”

By Lee Jung-Youn (
Korea Herald Youtube