Why School Bullying Is Still Getting Worse In South Korea
School bullying is one of the most prominent issues South Korea faces regarding its youth. Almost every other day, new horror stories are shared by victims on online communities — ones that tell not only of the cruelty that comes from the physical and mental abuse bullies enact upon their victims, but also the cruelty of negligence from school authorities. Despite several prevention steps, the problem remains rampant — but why?
While it rarely leaves the spotlight, the issue has been once again brought to the Korean public’s attention following the appointment of Chung Sun Sin as the new chief of the National Office of Investigation. The prosecutor-turned-lawyer resigned after spending only one day in the position due to reports that his son had bullied his roommate in 2017. Sadly, this bullying wasn’t even the biggest problem, as it was soon revealed the newly appointed chief had helped his son avoid punishment.
School bullying is also famously highlighted in different forms of media, with K-Drama and movie directors in particular trying to shed light on the problem. Recently, for example, The Glory has become one of the most-watched shows on Netflix. This series portrays the story of an elementary school teacher who seeks revenge against a group of her former bullies, who had physically and mentally abused her when she was young.
The show’s popularity and incredible ratings can, in part, be attributed to the way it highlights not only the horror of being bullied, but also that of being ignored when asking for help. The main character, Moon Dong Eun, who is portrayed by Song Hye Kyo, starts the show off by asking for help from the local authorities. Her attempt fails when her homeroom teacher intervenes. Not only do her bullies go unpunished, but later, Dong Eun suffers physical abuse from the teacher as well — emphasizing the failing system of bullying prevention committees.
With the issues that surround them, it seems as if these committees were set up to fail. Perhaps the biggest problem behind that failure is that most of the committees’ members have no legal expertise. In most cases, they are the students’ own parents, and sometimes teachers. The president of the Seoul School Teachers’ Union, Park Keun Byeong, shed some light on the situation himself when talking with The Korea Times.
Many of the legal professionals don’t even attend the committee meetings often because it is an unpaid position. They are usually busy with their day jobs. Not to mention there are so few of them in each committee.
— Park Keun Byeong
Another issue that has developed is the relocation of these committees. In 2021, the Ministry of Education decided to move them to different local branches of education offices. This relocation means that victims are now supposed to report bullying acts to their school and allow it to handle them internally, with the option of the school reporting it to the committees if the case proves too difficult to handle. As told by The Glory‘s Moon Dong Eun, it’s easy to tell why this complicates the process for victims.
Last but not least, the committees’ lack of legal authority is the deficiency bullies and their representatives take advantage of the most. Even if the committee proves successful and takes a decision against those who enact acts of school bullying, the latter can oppose the decision and take the matter to court.
If the dispute goes on for long enough, this will stop the bullying charges from being added to their school records, making it no problem for bullies to continue going to college and live the rest of their lives with minimal, if any, consequences.
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