The MBN entertainment program High School Mom&Father was aired in March 2022, and it deals with the reality of pregnancy, childbirth, and childcare of high school students. This program shows the challenges faced by teenagers who become unmarried parents. It is a big controversy that is obviously too sensitive to deal with as an entertainment, but some say that this has made it clear why minors should not conceive and give birth.
Similar problems occur with young college students in their early 20s. It may be nosy to interfere with their choices, as they are independent adults, but unplanned pregnancies and their lack of economic self-reliance incur the same social costs as minors. According to the 2009-2019 childbirth statistics, the proportion of births among minors aged 15 to 19 steadily accounts for 1% to 2% of the total childbirth population every year. Assuming that an average of 260,000 babies are born a year, 1% is equivalent to 2,600. In addition, 10% of those aged 20 to 24 give birth to unwanted pregnancies, which reaches 26,000.
Experts say, “The social problem of family breakdown has led to a surge in sexual problems among teenagers.” As evidenced by this, many of the cast members in the program also said they felt psychological loneliness due to family discord and family disconnection. However, Ms. A, a homeroom teacher at a boys’ high school located in Seoul, said, “Youth pregnancy does not come only from family discord. In terms of public education, sex education does not reflect reality,” she pointed out. “About three years ago, the digital sex crime ‘Nth Room’ incident became a big issue because there was a teenager among the perpetrators. With the development of media, teenagers can easily access sex, and school education is still at the level where it only focusses on sexual assault and sexual harassment, she added. A student at Chungbuk National University who graduated from high school in Gimpo this year said, “There was a sex education class in my high school, but none of my friends focused and listened to it. Most students were sleeping or studying for other subjects, and the teacher only played the video without any explanation or real supervision.”
There are three major issues of sex education in Korea that experts commonly site. It includes the gender education system and lack of expert training institutions. Many have steadily called for the scrapping of the current school sex education standard plan implemented in 2015. This is because it over-emphasizes and strengthens the dichotomy between genders. After the ‘#Me Too’ movement in 2018, it was announced that the government would reorganize the school sex education standard again, and implement it in the first half of 2019, but three years later, it is still the same. In addition, according to the standards for sex education and the guidelines of the Ministry of Education, youth sex education is mandatory for 15 hours per semester, but no actual time is assigned to it. In the end, health classes should be secured at the discretion of teachers. Lastly, there are very few professional institutions that conduct sex education training, which leads to a lack of opportunities for training experts. The conservative atmosphere of Korea adds to this, making the sex culture of students more opaque and less transparent.
How about sex education in other countries? Germany, which is considered to be the benchmark of sex education, pursues ‘natural sex.’ Sex education in Germany teaches responsibility and behavior, not education to prohibit sexual intercourse in adolescence. First, unlike Korea, German children are honestly educated from a very young age on the subject of gender. Not only is there a word ‘sex haben’ in the dictionary of words for kindergarteners, but a number of sex-related books for children in the library are illustrated with uncensored pictures. Sex education in the lower grades of elementary school is mainly focused on the body and sex-related common sense, the attitude of the mother’s mind, and sexual violence that may come to children in daily life, and in the fifth grade, they learn very specifically about sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives. Education during this period provides information on how people can be safe from AIDS, STDs, and unwanted pregnancies. At this time, the educator is directly guided by an expert, not by a school teacher.
Professor Kim Nuri, who majored in German language and German social culture, talks about the nature of sex education in the Host of Different Class program. “Personality education begins with sex education,” she emphasized, “People who properly control their instincts and have a well-developed sense of responsibility, instead of guilt, become good citizens. The understanding of ‘sexual self-determination’, is the basis of sex education to properly recognize the importance of consensus with others. Therefore, having the right perception of sex from an early age is the foundation for creating a solid self and becoming a good citizen.” she added. This provides implications for how we should look at, and deal with sex education in the future.
By Song Chae-i