Amid ongoing controversy over the curriculum revision plan's removal of the term "sexual minority," the Ministry of Education on Tuesday refuted the National Human Rights Commission's criticism that the plan is a retreat in human rights discourse for Korean society.
"The revised curriculum plan is a retreat from human rights discourse in our society. Removing the term ‘sexual minority’ is a very serious problem in that it can lead to a deepening of discrimination against sexual minorities," said Song Doo-hwan, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission of Korea, in a statement issued Monday, the day before the prior notification period of the revised curriculum ends.
Refuting the human rights watchdog's claim, the Education Ministry said that public consensus is necessary to include "controversial terms" in the curriculum taught by elementary and secondary school students.
The revised curriculum, which opted to replace "sexual minorities" with "people who suffer from discrimination due to sex, age, race, nationality, disability, etc." was announced on Nov. 9. The ministry explained at the time, "As adolescence is a period of establishing gender identity, the term was decided to be explained indirectly to avoid confusion that young students might confront when they face specific examples of social minorities.”
However, some critics point out that in order to eliminate gender bias among teenagers, the exact terms for various people must be included in the curriculum. The Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union criticized the revised plan, saying, “The term ‘people who suffer from discrimination due to sex, age, race, nationality, disability, etc.’ has expanded the scope of discrimination, but it is only a desperate measure to avoid using the term ‘sexual minority.’”
Amid controversy growing over revised curriculum, a 2018 report showed that 8 in 10 middle school students want to access information about sexual minorities during school sex education.
The Korea Women's Development Institute, a research institute under the Prime Minister's Office, conducted a survey with 4,065 middle school students -- grades seven to nine -- from Nov. 6 to Dec. 5, 2018.
As for whether education on sexual minorities is necessary in schools in the future, 77.9 percent of the respondents said it is necessary. Female students showed a higher rate of answering in the affirmative at 86.2 percent, compared to 70.1 percent for male students.
However, when asked if they had received information or education about sexual minorities in school education, only 21.1 percent of respondents said yes.
Among all respondents, 26.1 and 30.7 percent of the students said they had experience contemplating their gender identity or sexual orientation, respectively. When it comes to gender identity, 20.8 percent of male students and 31.7 percent of female students said they had reflected over the issue, while 24.9 percent of male students and 37 percent of female students had thought about their sexual orientation.
The plan of erasing the term "sexual minority" from textbooks is to be finalized by the end of December after the National Education Committee’s discussion scheduled for early next month. If the plan passes, textbooks with the term omitted will be gradually delivered to every high school from 2024 to 2025.