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Surveillance and punishment

Posted February. 03, 2015 08:01,   


“Dad, I really don’t want to go to daycare center," my 30-month-old son told me a few days ago. My son would mostly speak short expressions such as "Pororo" and "candies." What made him to talk such a long sentence? At that moment, I felt like my heart stopped beating. Do I have to go to the daycare center immediately? No, I need evidence first. Are there surveillance cameras installed at the facility? I was confused.

After calming down myself, I examined a child abuse checklist, which was recently carried in a newspaper. First, I did not see any signs of injury on his body. When I asked why he did not want to go to daycare center, he said, “I am scared.” Experts advise parents not to ask the child “Were you beaten?” to prevent secondary damage, but I failed to display patience and ended up asking him, “Did your teacher beat you?” As experts predicted, my son avoided directly answering my question.

In spite of my wife who suggested that we wait and see for now, I headed to the daycare center with my son the next day. I planned to see carefully from the moment my son encounters his teacher.

Then, I came to witness something unexpected. My son rushed to the teacher without hesitance and was hugging her. He looked happier at the moment than the time when his own dad returns home after work. I even felt a sense of betrayal.

As I counseled with the teacher about my son, she gave me detailed explanations. She said a child who newly joined the daycare center shouts loudly. Many of the children in his class get alarmed or end up crying. I felt sorry to the teacher for being suspicious of her even without checking the fact.

Even though three weeks have passed since a video of child abuse at a daycare center in Incheon was publicized, public anger remains unabated. The power of such anger has been unleashed through mounting voices calling for closer scrutiny into daycare centers and tougher punishment. The government announced a string of measures, and the media also carried a furry of reports day after day.

However, experiencing the situation with my own son, I had a chance to reflect. As French philosopher Michel Foucault noted, can increasing surveillance and toughening punishment solve the problem, or whether countermeasures that were hurriedly devised to ease public anger will cause new problems or not?

Notably, as the authority has accelerated move to oblige childcare facilities to install surveillance cameras, we have not adequately agonized over the process through which video records can be accessed. Even now when surveillance cameras are only installed at 21 percent of such facilities, videos of child abuse are being uncontrollably reproduced by broadcasters and the Internet. Unless conditions for access to such video records and the process for their release are not thoroughly managed, serious side-effects will inevitably occur.

Anger can be positive momentum that can help resolve social issues. However, excessive anger is poison. Whenever a video of child abuse is played, we could get easily angry, but we may eventually become indifferent of child abuse problems. Just like insensitivity toward safety continues to prevail in our society even after the Sewol ferry disaster….

This reporter has decided to trust teachers at the daycare center for now, with expectations that trust and communication can be even more powerful than surveillance and punishment. If I visit them frequently and hold conversations, his teacher may as well think twice even she gets very angry. At daycare centers in the U.S. where community volunteers freely frequent, fewer cases of child abuse reportedly occur. On my way home from work, I will buy a post card to mail to the teacher at my son’s daycare center with the intent to atone for my acts of anger and suspicion.