UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Republic of Korea (CRC 24-10-2019)

The Committee considered the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of the Republic of Korea (CRC/C/KOR/5-6) at its 2416th and 2417th meetings (see CRC/C/SR.2416 and 2417), held on 18 and 19 September 2019, and adopted the present concluding observations at its 2430th meeting, held on 27 September 2019.

Concluding observations

B. General principles (arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12)


  1. While welcoming the measures taken to support children in disadvantaged situations, the Committee remains concerned that the adoption of a draft anti-discrimination act has been hampered since 2007. It is also concerned that:

(a) Rural children, economically disadvantaged children, children with disabilities, migrant children, multicultural children and refugee children from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea experience discrimination in getting their birth registered and in accessing childcare facilities, education, health care, welfare, leisure and State protection;

(b) Achievement-based discrimination is widespread in schools;

(c) Single-parent families face prejudice and discrimination;

(d) Cases of discrimination based on sexual orientation are persistent, a situation that the State party acknowledged by stating that its policies regarding young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons is inadequate (CRC/C/KOR/5-6, para. 36).

  1. Taking note of target 10.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals on ensuring equal opportunity and reducing inequalities of outcome, including by eliminating discriminatory laws, policies and practices and promoting appropriate legislation, policies and action in this regard, the Committee urges the State party to expeditiously adopt anti-discrimination legislation and ensure that such legislation prohibits discrimination based on origin, sexual orientation and gender identity. It also recommends that the State party:

(a) Enact a comprehensive anti-discrimination law and strategy and conduct public campaigns to eliminate and prevent discrimination against children in vulnerable and disadvantaged situations;

(b) Ensure that all children within its territory are equally able to be registered at birth and have access to childcare facilities, education, health care, welfare, leisure and State support;

(c) Prevent and eliminate achievement-based discrimination in schools:

(d) Ensure equal treatment for all families, including in accessing child support, and review legislation and practices accordingly.

H. Special protection measures (arts. 22, 30, 32–33, 35–36, 37 (b)–(d) and

Administration of child justice

  1. The Committee welcomes the amendment to the Juvenile Act making it possible to count the period spent in a juvenile reformatory as part of the final sentence. However, it is concerned about:

(a) The existence of two parallel systems for processing and treating cases of children in conflict with the law;

(b) Proposals to lower the age of criminal responsibility to 13 years and that 10-year-old children can be detained under the Juvenile Act;

(c) Article 4 (1) (3) of the Juvenile Act, which provides for the detention of “crime-prone juveniles” in the absence of an actual offence;

(d) Reports of violations of children’s fair trial rights, including the non-involvement of guardians from the investigation onwards, the use of forced confessions, the lack of access to evidence and appeal, breaches of the presumption of innocence and the right to defend oneself, publicity of the trial and making conditional the right to legal assistance;

(e) Higher detention rates among children compared with adults;

(f) Inappropriate conditions of detention, including overcrowding and insufficient medical assistance, education, training, leisure and food, especially for girls; restrictions on communications, petitions and outdoor exercise; the absence of reasonable accommodations for children with minority backgrounds; and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children in detention;

(g) Cases of children detained together with adults;

(h) Unnecessary and compulsory DNA and HIV testing for child detainees; the isolation of child detainees with HIV; the imposition of compulsory body checks and haircuts on child detainees; and the continuous filming of sanitary facilities;

(i) The overuse of discretionary disciplinary measures, such as solitary confinement, restrictions on family visits and remote disciplinary transfers;

(j) Use of handcuffs, ropes and other devices, and the use of electric shocks, despite such use being prohibited by law;

(k) The lack of non-custodial measures to prevent reoffending.

  1. The Committee urges the State party to:

(a) Establish a system, with adequate resources, of specialized child justice courts for all cases involving children in contact with the law and ensure that specialized judges for children and professionals working with children in conflict with the law receive appropriate education and continuous training on the rights of the child;

(b) Maintain the minimum age of criminal responsibility at 14 years and ensure that children below that age are not treated as offenders and are never placed in detention;

(c) Ensure that fair trial guarantees are respected, in accordance with article 40 of the Convention, also ensure that the public is excluded from hearings for cases involving children and that children’s legal guardians participate in the proceedings from the very beginning, provide and promote confidential channels for reporting violations and establish guidelines for media outlets reporting on cases involving children;

(d) Ensure, in law and in practice, the provision of qualified legal assistance to all children in conflict with the law from the investigation onwards and establish a system of legal aid;

(e) Repeal article 4 (1) (3) of the Juvenile Act on “crime-prone juveniles”;

(f) Establish a legal basis for diversion programmes and promote non-custodial sentences;

(g) Establish clear grounds for detention in the Juvenile Act, use detention as a measure of last resort and for the shortest period of time, ensure that detention is reviewed on a regular basis with a view to its withdrawal, ensure that the period under the “protective disposition” and the period of “entrustment to the juvenile classification” are counted towards the final sentence, and establish and ensure the right to appeal an order of detention and the right to compensation for unlawful detention;

(h) Ensure that detention conditions, including for temporary detentions, comply with international standards, including with regard to personal space, equally for boys and girls, access to food, education, physical and mental health services, exercise, leisure, communication with the family and complaints mechanisms; that children deprived of their liberty are held in facilities close to their place of residence; and that detention facilities, including child welfare institutions, undergo continuous monitoring;

(i) Revise its legislation and take all effective measures to eliminate any possibility that a child is detained with adults;

(j) Abolish the use of confinement and transfers as disciplinary measures and promote restorative measures instead;

(k) Regulate the use of force and protective devices in relation to children and ensure that such use is limited to specific circumstances and that it is necessary and proportional;

(l) Ensure that the privacy of children in detention is respected, prohibit DNA collection and HIV testing for child detainees and clear any records thereof, handle HIV-related information with confidentiality, end the isolation of child detainees with HIV and prohibit compulsory body checks and haircuts, as well as continuous filming in sanitary areas;

(m) Strengthen non-custodial measures to prevent reoffending;

(n) Ensure that all children in conflict with the law are treated equally and without discrimination, regardless of their nationality, disability status, sexual orientation or gender identity, and provide reasonable accommodation whenever appropriate.

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