Justice Minister Park Bum-gye, speaks during a video conference meeting Wednesday, during which he discussed ministry`s move to establish a birth registration system for non-Korean children born in South Korea. (Ministry of Justice)
Children’s rights activists welcomed a move by the Ministry of Justice toward the establishment of a birth registration system for non-Korean children born in South Korea, as a means to ensure that every child has legal status regardless of nationality.
A network of advocacy groups said in a statement Wednesday that the ministry’s decision would help Korea better track all children and protect them from mistreatment. It is expected that more than 20,000 unregistered foreign children in Korea would benefit from a new birth registration system.
“Under the current law, birth registration is impossible for foreign children born in Korea when their parents are not registered or naturalized after giving birth,” said Na Sang-min, a representative of Save the Children Korea, one of the organizations within the advocacy network.
“In this case, children born and raised in Korea essentially stayed off the system, making them more vulnerable to abuse, trafficking and exploitation. Public services for these children were also largely limited.”
Foreign parents who are not legal residents cannot register the births of any children born to them in Korea, essentially making the children ineligible for government medical care and education.
The current situation also prevents refugees in Korea from providing due protection for their children because they are unable to visit their original countries’ embassies.
The network said the system, if successfully introduced, would effectively provide legal grounds for all children born in Korea to be registered and protected. The ministry’s move represents meaningful progress since discussions began in 2018, it says.
The group has maintained for more than a decade that Korea’s birth registration system violates international human rights norms by limiting registration to Korean nationals.
Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child states, “The child shall be registered immediately after birth and shall have the right from birth to a name, the right to acquire a nationality and, as far as possible, the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents.”
It goes on to state that countries have an obligation to ensure these rights are respected under the law.
A number of foreign countries, including Britain, Germany, Thailand and Vietnam, have introduced birth registration systems for foreign nationals born there.
The ministry plans to hold further discussions with experts and advocacy groups before proposing a related bill to the parliament. It has been suggested that the ministry should provide incentives, in the early stages after the bill passes and becomes law, to encourage foreign parents to register their children’s births.
The network also suggested that the ministry consider making the birth registration system for foreign nationals part of a reformed birth registration system for the whole country.
By Ko Jun-tae (firstname.lastname@example.org