Thursday, February 4, 2010

5 Centimeter Bangs

While browsing the Korea Times this morning, I came across this article on laws and rules governing the length of student's hair. In America, there is the occasional controversy over boys having "girlishly" long hair at school but this was governing every student. Apparently, such guidelines are defended because they "keep its students away from entertainment outlets for adults in its vicinity by making them easily recognizable as students." That means 5 centimeter bangs for girls (can that be right?) and forced trims if your hair doesn't meet requirements.

The counterargument: cutting student's hair without their consent is a human rights issue. And I agree. It might not be as bad as say, killing/jailing/torturing people for expressing opinions against Dear Leader in North Korea but it is most certainly a violation of the student's rights. The counterargument is weak at best; adult venues should be carding minors they believe to be inappropriately trying to gaining entrance. Not to mention the fact that most of these students seem to have zero free time to get into such shenanigans. If they aren't in school, hagwon, taekwondo, piano lessons or studying they are helping out their family. The little free time available gets devoted to the television, computer or gaming systems.

I will have to ask my co-teacher what she thinks about hair guidelines as she is both a parent and a teacher.


FredL. said...

Minors are generally exempt from "human rights" issues. That is why the Law grants to parents and/or guardians such enormous powers over the lives of a minor. As such, a regulation on when to cut a student's hair, withour that person's permission, is not a human rights issue. It is one of chld rearing and education in the proper repsect for ones elders ( read authority)

Alex said...

I disagree on two accounts. While I agree that hair isn't a traditional or typical human rights issue that doesn't mean that children are exempt from human rights issues. You will find in the UN/Geneva conventions that indeed children are included in human rights issues. The issue with Korean school children isn't that the parents are forcing children into having their hair a certain way, it's that schools are forcing students to make superficial changes without their consent. This isn't about skirt lengths or something that could be construed as detrimental to their studies, this is a power issue that is making students seriously unhappy, and as trivial as that might seem to you, given the suicide rate among Korean students I would argue that something they obviously feel so strongly about should be listened to and perhaps respected. It might not be a 'human rights issue' per se as the newspaper article argued but I agree that it is an issue that should be taken seriously: people are having something done to them against their will.