By Lee Tae-hoon
Thousands of Korean teenage mothers are being forced to drop out of school every year, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said Tuesday.
The number of unmarried teenage mothers has soared to some 5,000 to 6,000 a year and it is increasing every year, NHRC Chairman Hyun Byung-chul said at a National Assembly forum in Seoul.
He said the more worrying fact is that most of them have either already left school, or are being forced out on the grounds that they have violated school regulations.
In 2009, a 16-year-old single mother filed a complaint with the rights commission, claiming that her high school made her drop out by even threatening that it might sue her boyfriend for the pregnancy.
The school argued such a measure was necessary because she breached the school's code of conduct and that attendance of a pregnant student would have a bad influence on others.
However, the school later decided to let her continue her study following the commission's recommendation.
The commission points out that encouraging teenage mothers to take education is a growing trend in advanced countries.
It says the United States runs the Teenage Parenting Program, which includes special classes and child care facilities in schools; The United Kingdom also operates a similar program called "20 Sure Start Plus," which mandates teen mothers under the age of 16 to complete education and provides housing for single mothers between 16 and 17 years old.
According to the latest survey of the Korea Institute for Health and Social Affairs, less than 17 percent of single mothers attend school in Korea.
Eighty-five percent of unmarried student-mothers quit school though nearly 60 percent of them wanted to continue their studies, according to a 2008 report by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.