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RULER   :  Archive   :  1999   :  KR Schools Jan 1999


School CP - January 1999

Corpun file 8691 at

Korea Times, Seoul, 3 January 1999

Thoughts of The Times

Teachers, Cheer Up!

By Choi Tae-hwan

A storm of the conflict over teachers' corporal punishment is sweeping over the educational circles in Korea. Have you ever seen a TV drama, "Watching after watching?" In the drama, a few days ago, there was a scene which showed the reality of the conflict of the physical punishment of teachers and parents, in which a homeroom teacher finding out a student's bullying his classmate summoned the offending student who was the leader of the class and made him realize his wrongdoing. The teacher would listen to his explanation of his wrongdoing, painfully as well as physically hurting and afflicting his classmate on purpose and then the offending student is willing to accept the physical punishment of the teacher, five canes using a small rod.

Next day, the mother of the student severely verbally abuses the teacher, "You have no qualification as a teacher and I will have you dismissed at this school. I have never used the rod at home. Why did you give him five canes due to such a trivial wrongdoing?" The teacher was shocked to see and hear her verbal violence and behavior in front of the principal. He is at a loss only to be distressed as well as discouraged as a teacher.

What do you think of this event? Which side are you on? Are you for the physical punishment of the teacher or for the position of the mother? The point is that unfortunately such similar or more severe situations take place at schools all too frequently. Personally, I have seen and heard a variety of terrible occasions involving verbal and physical violence by parents at schools.

Recently, it is too often reported that more than 10 students report their teachers' punishment to the police a day and one teacher was taken to the police from the school for investigation into the corporal punishment. Some students dare to ask their teachers to give them corporal punishment so as to give an excuse of reporting it to the police. What is worse, some parents and even students are said to commit physical violence against teachers' punishment in the classrooms.

What a tragedy it is for parents, students, and teachers to have such a terrible relationship at our schools! Where are the teachers' love for students and students' respect and love for teachers which are regarded as one of the most traditional virtues in our education? What brings about such a terrible classroom situation? Is there anyone who can deny the root of the conflict as the necessity and degree of physical punishment? Is physical punishment necessary or not?

Let's take a look at the reality of our classrooms and homes. It is true that there is no role of family in educating children because high school students have to stay at schools for around 14-15 hours every day and they have only a few hours at homes for sleeping, which keeps them from having homely conversation with their parents and family education. At schools, we have a big class size of around 50 students, which prevents a teacher from having personal and individual contact and teaching with students. I am so shocked and stunned to see some students showing their impolite and violent words and behaviors, beyond imagination to me, in and around school lives. This is thought to be brought about by the lack of family education. "I have never had any kind of caning from my parents. Why do you give me such punishment?" What should I have to do when I am spoken to like this?

Unfortunately, it is said that there are a few teachers who are used to whipping students emotionally. I really want to claim that teachers have to do their best to make use of corporal punishment only on the basis of reasonable and rational ways and degree for the purpose of educating students. It is inevitable for a student and a teacher to recognize what's the problem and realize the educational necessity of corporal punishment by talking to each other.

All the teachers! Let's try to kick away our emotion in case of caning, so that we can recover our dignity as teachers! It is borne in mind that caning without love can be only referred to as violence, not education and we should not give up leading our students onto the right track because, I am sure, we are the last and only fort to educate our children and will be a prop of Korea in the new millennium.

Teachers, Cheer up! Don't give up our students! Indifference is the worst policy in education.

The writer is an English teacher at Kukje High School in Kwangju.

Corpun file 3389 at

South China Morning Post, Hong Kong, 29 January 1999

Corporal punishment restored in struggle for class discipline

By John Larkin in Seoul

South Korea is to ease a ban on corporal punishment in schools to give teachers a free hand against rebellious students.

The move comes amid sweeping changes to the disciplinarian school system, which produces brilliant scholars but also breeds resentment among students forced by parents to study most of the day.

In recent months tensions have boiled over as students confront teachers over their sometimes heavy-handed approach to class discipline.

Students complain corporal punishment is still widespread despite the ban, and in some instances have called the police when they feel a teacher has over-stepped the line in meting out punishment. The ban was imposed last year in primary, secondary and high schools.

In one recent case, a student called the police after being "tapped" on the cheek by her teacher, according to news reports. Such disrespect is unprecedented as teachers are accorded great prestige in South Korea and until recent years were safe from criticism.

Now teachers will be allowed to use corporal punishment as a last resort to punish unruly students. The Education Ministry will urge schools to draft their own rules on punishment in consultation with students and their parents. If a student calls the police, the school's principal will take part in the investigation.

But the move is contentious, because to education experts it represents a return to the bad old days.

South Korean schooling is based on rote-learning and discipline, which until recently teachers were allowed to enforce in any way they saw fit.

But the traditionalists have had their hand strengthened by a spate of school bullying. Some despairing victims have committed suicide while others have been beaten by student mobs.

They believe more discipline will subdue bullies, despite sociologists attributing school violence and harassment to this same unyielding and outdated approach to school discipline.

President Kim Dae-jung, who has promised to modernise schooling, recently lashed out at teachers and principals for failing to prevent bullying among students. But he also echoed concerns that a rise in student insolence was eroding respect for teachers.

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