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Yoon vows to combat school violence amid bullying case fallout

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : Feb. 27, 2023 - 16:17

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President Yoon Suk Yeol greets degree recipients after delivering a congratulatory speech at the graduation ceremony held at Yonsei University in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol greets degree recipients after delivering a congratulatory speech at the graduation ceremony held at Yonsei University in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol has pledged to combat school violence and promote greater social justice after having to cancel a key personnel appointment when the chosen official was found to have defended his son in a school bullying case instead of holding him accountable.

During a meeting with his secretaries on Monday, Yoon directed the Education Ministry to “collaborate with relevant organizations such as local offices of education to develop measures for eradicating school violence as quickly as possible,” according to a statement from Yoon’s senior press secretary, Kim Eun-hye.

Yoon's remarks followed his cancellation of the appointment of former prosecutor-turned-lawyer Chung Sun-sin as head of the National Office of Investigation. The withdrawal of the appointment followed revelations that Chung's son was involved in an eight-month campaign of verbal harassment that resulted in the victim being transferred to another school.

Attending a graduation ceremony at Yonsei University in Seoul on Monday, Yoon told Education Minister Lee Ju-ho that “unilateral, continuous and collective violence must be eradicated in the education field,” according to Yoon's spokesperson, Lee Do-woon, at a press briefing in the afternoon.

Yoon said, “Just as the rule of law must be established in the industrial field, it is important to establish order and a law-abiding spirit among students, parents and teachers in the educational field,” instructing the minister to come up with comprehensive measures through consultations with related ministries.

At the graduation ceremony, Yoon committed to enhancing the government's role in education and care, and providing more “equitable and diversified” educational opportunities. He also told the students that the three major reforms being pushed by his government are intended to "make our society more vibrant and inspire courage and hope" in their dreams and challenges.

The reforms include establishment of labor-management law in industrial settings, creation of a fair and flexible labor market, strengthening of national responsibility for education and care, guaranteeing more fair and diverse educational opportunities and nurturing advanced science and technology talent.

“The government and I will do our best to change and reform our society to be freer and fairer so that you can dream and talk about the future,” he told students in his speech.

After being appointed to head the National Office of Investigation, the case of Chung's son was revealed in the media. According to a report made by the school in 2018, the son continued to harass his classmate, who later even attempted to commit suicide.

When the victim reported the bullying to the school, Chung’s son received an order to transfer to another school. Chung, who was then the human rights supervisor of the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office, objected to the decision and even filed an administrative lawsuit with the Supreme Court as a legal representative. His appeals were ultimately unsuccessful. The issue was reported by broadcast news in 2018.

The school violence report also revealed that Chung’s son had boasted about his father's profession, saying that prosecutors are important enough to take bribes and that having connections with judges can help result in a favorable sentence.

After being appointed to head the National Office of Investigation, Chung provided inaccurate information in the preliminary questionnaire for the verification process. Specifically, when asked if there were any civil or administrative lawsuits involving his family, he answered "no," despite his son's bullying case being previously reported.

The presidential spokesperson acknowledged that there were shortcomings in the verification process, as the issue pertained to Chung's children rather than the candidate himself. “The office will explore ways to improve the verification process within legal limits,” he said.