The Korea Herald


NHRCK calls for equal access to education for children of foreign nationality

By Lee Jaeeun

Published : July 18, 2023 - 14:51

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National Human Rights Commission of Korea National Human Rights Commission of Korea

South Korea’s human rights commission is calling for children with foreign nationality residing in Korea not to be discriminated against and instead be treated equally in preschool and kindergarten tuition subsidy programs.

In early July, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea determined that the Ministry of Education excludes children of foreign nationality residing in Korea from preschool and kindergarten tuition subsidies, restricting their equal rights to education, survival and development, which amounts to discrimination.

Consequently, the commission sent an official recommendation to the ministry to extend the subsidies to children of foreign nationality.

Currently, the Korean government offers free tuition for elementary, middle and high school students, including those of foreign nationality.

For children aged 3 to 5, the Education Ministry subsidizes educational expenses under Article 24 of the Early Childhood Education Act so that children can access preschools and kindergartens for a nominal fee. However, this subsidy does not apply to children of foreign nationality.

The NHRCK emphasized that the subsidy should be given to all children to provide equal educational opportunities for everyone, citing the non-discrimination principle of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since Korea signed the treaty in 1991, it is required to guarantee children's rights in accordance with its provisions. The UNCRC has the same effect as domestic law under Article 6 of the Constitution.

The NHRCK recommendation, although not legally binding, was made in response to a complaint lodged by the director of a migrant human rights organization.

According to the human rights commission, the Education Ministry was noncommittal, claiming that it's not a decision it can make unilaterally.

“Whether or not to include foreign children in the scope of child educational expenses subsidy programs is a matter to be judged in comprehensive consideration of equity with other social welfare service systems and government financial conditions, and social consensus and legal grounds are also needed,” the ministry argued.

The NHRCK went ahead with issuing its recommendation to the ministry, stating that equity with other social welfare service systems and the government's financial conditions are issues that need to be resolved through consultations with related organizations, but are not grounds for excluding or discriminating against children of foreign nationality.

“The Education Ministry and related institutions should form an expert consultative body to come up with measures to expand the scope of payment,” the commission stated.