Human rights watchdog urges school to end forced morning exercises for students

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By Jun Ji-hye

The National Human Rights Commission of Korea has advised a boarding high school located in North Gyeongsang Province to stop forcing its students to participate in a group walking exercise early every morning, saying that such a practice violates the self-determination and freedom of activity of students.

According to the commission, Tuesday, the school has a policy of waking all of its students up at 6:40 a.m. and having them walk on a nearby mountain path for 20 minutes every morning. Most of the students there go to bed between midnight and 1 a.m.

The school imposed penalty points on those who do not participate in the exercise activity.

Last September, a student attending the school filed a complaint with the commission, claiming that their human rights were being infringed upon through the school’s forced morning exercise.

In its explanation, the school said that it has operated the group exercise session to help students build up physical strength and develop a healthy lifestyle. It added that students are excluded from the activity if they were sick.

The commission said, however, that the school should stop the practice as it promotes obedience over autonomy.

“Forcing students to participate in the morning exercise without confirming their intent limits their rights to formulate their life autonomously,” the commission said.

“Through the practice, the students will be highly likely to learn discipline and obedience, rather than human dignity and autonomy.”

The commission also said the practice will become another source of stress for the students, considering that their sleeping hours are insufficient.

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