Article 31, Section 1

…. of the South Korean Constitution affirms that all students in South Korea have a right to be educated equally based on their abilities (Constitution of South Korea, 1948). On the basis of this article, in 1977, the Special Education Promotion Act (SEPA) protected the right of people to get equal education throughout the country. Since that period, educational opportunities have risen for people with special needs extremely in terms of educational institutions, number of programmes and other opportunities. The number of students with special needs who were educated in schools increased from 1343 in 1962 to 53,404 in 2003 (Kwon, 2005). In this regard, inclusiveness has become one of the central matter in education in South Korea. Many researchers and education practitioners believe that inclusion is necessary for people with different disabilities to keep equal educational opportunities and social participation within the country.

In 1935, Chang-Ho Lee built a Kwangmyung school for learners with visual impairments in Pyung-Yang (Chang, 1996; Lee, 1995). Since, the system of inclusive education has dramatically changed and reconstructed. Present South Korean people with special needs can get education in three directions: special schools, special classes in regular schools, and regular classes in regular schools (Kwon, 2005). Approximately 53,404 children with different health impairments receive education within the primary and secondary level. Amidst them 24,192 students were educated in special schools, 26,868 students were in special classes, and 2,344 which is over 4% of students were fully educated in regular classes with the assistance of tutors for 2003 (MEHR, 2003). As it is seen, special schools and special classes in regular schools are mostly used for children’s study.

According to several scholars (An, 1969; Lee, 2000; Lim, 2001), people usually perceive students with special education needs (SEN) as stubborn, irresponsible, unsocialised, and incapable. Because of such negative attitudes about people with disabilities, majority of students and their parents prefer to be isolated as having a disability.
In regualr classrooms, students ususally wish to stay without any support rather than getting appropriate services for their needs (Jung, 2002). Also, many students with special needs do not want to be included, but want to go to separate special schools with similar peers (Seo et al., 1992). In this sense, families believe that if a child with SEN will be educated in special school, this will be more beneficial for him or her.
Another pity point is that even professionals such as social workers and special education teachers working with students with SEN, sometimes are not concious and aware about the significance of inclusion (Shin, 1998). As Kwon, (2005) claims: “Many special education professionals in South Korea believe the benefits for children educated in a segregated system outnumber the harmful effects, and argue that regular schools do not have the ability to serve most students with disabilities.” Because of these several reasons special education services are still catered mainly in special schools in South Korea.

Many countries operate in different manner for inclusion. This is my peace of information I wanted to share with you. What do you know about other countries’ efforts toward inclusion?


An, T. Y. (1969). A study of traditional Korean thought toward the handicapped. Unpublished master’s thesis, Korean Social Work College, Taegu, Korea.

Chang, S. (1996). The effect of special class management in children’s learning achievement and attitude change. Unpublished master’s thesis, Chonnam National University, Korea.

Constitution of South Korea. (1948). Reauthorization in 1987. Article 31, Section 1 (1987). In Chang, K. S. (1996). The effect of special class management in children’s learning achievement and attitude change. Unpublished master’s thesis, Chonnam National University, Korea.

Jung, D. Y. (2002). The issues and tasks in the concept and diagnostic assessment of learning disabilities. Journal of Emotional Disturbances & Learning Disabilities, 18, 63–87.

Kwon, H. (2005) Inclusion in South Korea: The current situation and future directions.International Journal of Disability, Development and Education. 52(1), 59-68, DOI: 10.1080/10349120500071910

Lee, S. J. (1995). The historical study about the special education administration in Korea. Unpublished master’s thesis, Cheju University, Korea.

Lee, H. B. (2000). A study on the awareness of and attitude toward the persons with disability: Focused on the social workers in Kangsuh-Ku. Unpublished master’s thesis, Hansung University, Seoul, Korea.

Lim, R. (2001). Study on changes in public attitudes towards people with disabilities through Korean literature. Unpublished master’s thesis, Yongin University, Korea.

Ministry of Education and Human Resources (2003). Special education annual report to congress. Seoul, Korea: Ministry of Education and Human Resources.

Seo, G., Oakland, T., Han, S., & Hu, S. (1992). Special education in South Korea. Exceptional Children, 58, 213–218.

Shin, S. (1998). A study of teachers’ perceptions toward the inclusion. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Taegu University, Korea.

1 thought on “Article 31, Section 1

  1. Thank you, Dinara, for presenting a portion of South Korea in this blog!
    Although Korea and Korean education always ignite passion in my heart, I have not known before about Korea’s strategy in inclusive education. As a layman in inclusive education, I do not know it in all its minutest details. While reading your post, one question came to my mind. You wrote that there are three options for people with special needs to get education: special schools, special classes in regular schools, and regular classes in regular schools. However, one can see a huge discrepancy between being educated in special and regular classes (26,868 students and 2,344 students respectively). Do you know what factors influenced on this uneven ratio? Perhaps, it depends on kind of disability? Or perhaps, parents do not want their children to be educated with children with special needs? Or there is something else behind?


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