One in 3 victims of school violence in South Korea has been bullied “as a joke,” a report from the Education Ministry showed Wednesday.
Some 0.6 percent of students enrolled at Korea’s elementary, middle and high schools admitted that they had bullied fellow students, according to a survey conducted in September involving some 130,000 students.
The most common reason behind the bullying was “just as a joke” (29.4 percent). Some 19.2 percent of the bullying took place “for no special reason” or “because the victims’ behavior and appearance were weird” (14.7 percent).
Some 1.2 percent of elementary, middle and high school students have suffered from bullying in classrooms, the survey showed.
Elementary school students reported the highest bullying rate, with 2.1 percent of the respondents saying they had experienced school violence. The rate for middle school students was 0.8 percent and for high school students it was 0.3 percent.
The most common form of bullying was verbal abuse (39 percent), followed by group bullying (19.5 percent), stalking (10.6 percent), cyberbullying (8.2 percent), physical assault (7.7 percent) and sexual violence (5.7 percent).
Victims said the people whose help they needed the most to counter the bullying were family members (33 percent), teachers (30.9 percent), friends (17 percent) and counselors at school (4.8 percent.) Nearly 6 percent said no one could help them overcome the bullying.
To more sternly deal with bullying in classrooms, the ministry said Wednesday that it would seek to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 13 from the current 14, as part of a 2020-24 plan on preventing school violence.
Calls have been growing in recent years for tougher punishment for young offenders, after middle school girls in Busan, accused of brutally beating up one of their peers in 2017, avoided imprisonment based on the juvenile law. The court ordered “protection measures” for them.
Under the juvenile law, those aged 10 to 13 are not held criminally accountable for criminal law violations and are only subjected to protection measures such as community service or serving in juvenile protection facilities.
Bills to lower the minimum age of criminal liability have been tabled to the parliament, but are pending.