The Korea Herald


Bullying of teachers enters policy dialogue in Korea

By Kim Arin

Published : July 26, 2023 - 15:39

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Minister of Education Lee Ju-ho attends a meeting with ruling People Power Party lawmakers on Wednesday. (Yonhap) Minister of Education Lee Ju-ho attends a meeting with ruling People Power Party lawmakers on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The recent suicide of a newly employed teacher, who is believed to have suffered from bullying by parents as well as overwork, has sparked a dialogue in Korea to come up with policies to respond to the widespread bullying of teachers in public schools.

Leading officials from the ruling People Power Party met with Minister of Education Lee Ju-ho on Wednesday to discuss measures to protect teachers from harassment and violence perpetrated by both parents and students.

“At our public schools, the bullying of teachers is more prevalent than it is talked about,” ruling party Rep. Yun Jae-ok told reporters after meeting with the minister.

He said that teachers in the field were complaining of having to deal with complaints from aggressive parents, which discourage them from addressing disruptive student behavior in classrooms or responding to violence -- sometimes violence directed against themselves.

According to a survey of 2,390 elementary teachers released Tuesday, 99.2 percent responded they had experienced rights infringements at work. The type of rights infringements most frequently experienced by teachers was “unjustified” complaints from parents, the survey taken by the national elementary teachers’ union showed.

Rep. Lee Tae-kyu of the parliamentary education committee said school violence was not limited to violence among students. “Physical, verbal violence against teachers by students or parents is also school violence,” he said.

By failing to take initiatives to protect teachers from bullying, Korean public education was failing students, he said, adding, “Schools cannot be safe for students if they are not safe for teachers.”

He said that protecting teachers against violence did not mean the return of corporal punishment in schools, which he said would be “completely anachronistic.”

Policy responses proposed at Wednesday’s meeting include building a system for managing complaints from parents and developing procedures for investigating reports of the bullying of teachers.

On July 18, a junior teacher in her 20s took her own life at an elementary school in Seocho, a district in southern Seoul. While police have yet to identify evidence of bullying or workplace harassment, the city teachers’ union claims she had been targeted by parents.