By Kim Bo-eun
Parents who have children will not be granted a divorce unless they take parental education on the prevention of child abuse, the Seoul Family Court said Sunday.
The court said it will make the education mandatory starting May as part of comprehensive measures to prevent child abuse following a series of cases involving divorced parents.
Many child abuses have occurred after remarriage by former spouses, including a recent case in which a seven-year-old boy was found dead after being abused by his stepmother and biological father.
"Data show over 40 percent of abused children were from a single-parent or remarried families," a court official said. "In the case of single-parent families, they experience greater financial difficulties and child-rearing burdens than families with two parents, and such pressure is often vented on their children."
The education will be compulsory for all couples filing for divorce, whether it is divorce by agreement or via a suit. The court will halt the divorce procedures if parents do not take the required course.
"The course will teach parents that abusive language and negligence is also a form of child abuse, along with physical violence," the official said.
Parents will also learn that abusing their children will risk their parental and custodial rights and they may be subject to criminal punishment.
They will also be told to check, even after divorce, whether the former spouse with custody rights abuses their children.
The court will make guidelines on the education soon and distribute them to other courts across the country by the latter half of the year.
The central government is also preparing measures to strengthen parental education for the same cause. Gender Equality and Family Minister Kang Eun-hee said earlier this month that the ministry would push for mandatory education for parents in an effort to correct parents' misconceptions about childcare.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government also said it would hold education sessions for parents sending their children to public daycare centers and introduce online courses for working couples.
In the meantime, a study Ewha Womans University's social welfare department showed the socio-economic costs of child abuse reaches up to 76 trillion won per year.
Based on data from a 2011 joint study by the Ministry of Health and Welfare and Sookmyung Women's University, the study said direct expenses of child abuse, which include costs of child protection services and adoption as well as hospital expenses for physical and psychological injuries, amount to 8 trillion won.
Secondary expenses, which arise in the later stages of the child's life, such as medical expenses for physical and mental illnesses arising from abuse, special education costs, costs of crime, decline in productivity and unemployment, were estimated at 68 trillion won.