An award-winning public school teacher was sentenced to a fine of 3 million won ($2,735) for making discriminatory remarks against a sixth grade multicultural student in the classroom last year.
The female student, whose father is Canadian and mother is Korean, was scolded by the teacher for not eating kimchi in her school in Suwon last June.
The 50-year-old teacher asked her why she wouldn’t eat kimchi when “she is half-Korean,” and stated that her future (Korean) mother-in-law would not like it should she find out her daughter-in-law does not eat the traditional fermented Korean dish.
“We acknowledge that the teacher, as an educator, caused great emotional distress to the student with an international background,” the court said.
The teacher, who has some 30 years of teaching experience, had been awarded by the Suwon Office of Education in 2004 for her work.
The Suwon Office of Education did not take any disciplinary action against her, other than issuing a simple warning, when the student’s parents filed an official complaint to the police in August.
“Our rule is that teachers who have been awarded by the government get a certain degree of exemption when they face disciplinary action. If she hadn’t won the award, she would have faced heavier punishment,” Lee Won-mi from the Suwon Office of Education told The Korea Herald.
In May last year, the teacher made the whole class call the student “stupid” thrice loudly for “asking too many questions” in class.
Another time, the teacher asked those who take private education lessons outside of the classroom to raise their hands.
Among the students who did, the teacher pointed at the multicultural student and said “you are particularly a (financial) burden on your parents.”
The student, who moved to Korea from Canada with her parents in 2010, reportedly underwent therapy for a number of months after suffering emotionally from such remarks by the teacher.
The student’s parents told local media that the teacher never apologized properly, and should not be allowed to remain in the education field.
Prosecutors said they would appeal against the court decision, as the teacher can be removed from her position only if she is sentenced to imprisonment.
According to the Suwon education office, the teacher is currently not teaching at the school in Suwon, and has been on sick leave since last year.
By Claire Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)