In a twist to a case that went unnoticed for nearly two years, the Uijeongbu Police Station has initiated an investigation into the alleged suicide of Lee Yeong Seung, an elementary school teacher at Howon Elementary School, due to possible harassment by parents.
Lee’s death in December 2021, initially reported as a mere “fall” by his school, has come under renewed scrutiny following another suicide of a young teacher, also believed to have faced bullying by parents. The said suicide from Daejeon made headlines and shed light on the grave issue of teachers being subjected to mistreatment by parents, bringing Lee’s case back into the spotlight.
The trajectory of Lee’s ordeal began in 2016 when a student under his supervision injured his hand during a class activity. While the school twice covered the treatment costs through insurance, the student’s parent incessantly demanded additional meetings and payments from Lee, despite his temporary absence from the school for mandatory military service. This ordeal eventually led Lee to pay ₩4.00 million KRW (about $2,960 USD) over eight months from his personal savings.
This was not the end of his troubles. Lee was also subjected to harassment from two other parents, with one sending a staggering 394 text messages over concerns regarding class attendance in the same year he was found dead.
Though the regional education office’s recent investigation unveiled the school’s neglect towards Lee’s plight, it remains to be seen what legal actions will ensue. Charges of business obstruction have been recommended against the three parents, and discussions regarding disciplinary actions against the school’s former leadership are underway.
Compounding the situation, last month’s revelation of personal information concerning the parent and the student involved in the initial injury, led to an outpour of public anger. The employer of the parent, Nonghyup, faced immense backlash, culminating in an official apology and the parent’s sidelining. Even the student faced backlash, with a call for his withdrawal from his university.
The crux of the ongoing police investigation hinges on determining the extent to which Lee was coerced into paying medical fees, and whether this pressure factored into his tragic demise. Officials have indicated that the suspected parents will be summoned for questioning post the Chuseok harvest holiday.