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Corporal punishment of school students in South Korea

Video clips: South Korea: secondary boys

Schoolboy undergoing punishment

With comments by C. Farrell

South Korea - Eleven video clips of schoolboy punishment.

In South Korea it was common for school corporal punishment to be delivered in a classroom or corridor. The clips on this page show secondary boys being disciplined by teachers.

Clip 1 of 11

Date: 2008
Duration: 5 seconds

Schoolboy caning in corridor

Do not blink or you will miss this very brief clip.

 Two secondary boys are being disciplined in a school corridor, assuming the classic South Korean punishment position: hands on the floor, bottom sticking up. We see a teacher giving the first student two fairly vigorous strokes of the cane across the seat of his trousers. That boy immediately gets up and goes on his way while the other one receives one stroke before the clip ends -- presumably the first of two or more strokes.

 If we look again at the clip, right at the beginning we can see another student who has clearly just been caned before the filming started, holding his hurting buttocks as he walks away to the left of camera (pictured right).


Clip 2 of 11

Date: 2008
Duration: 25 seconds

Mild punishment

In this scene, a boy stands facing the blackboard to be punished across the seat of his grey uniform trousers. The implement used appears to be some sort of ruler, possibly being applied sideways on, though it is hard to be sure. Whatever it is, it does not look long enough to make all that much impression on a boy in his middle teens. By Korean standards this is a mild punishment, made less effective, I should have thought, by the fact that the student has not been asked to bend but is standing upright, in addition to which his trousers are fairly loose and the teacher makes little attempt to counteract this, though he does lift up the back of the boy's jacket out of the way (pictured right).

 Ten strokes are delivered altogether. After the fourth one the boy jumps away, as though in too much pain to continue, but I suspect he is "putting this on". At the end of the punishment he calmly returns to his place in the class. The atmosphere in the room is not very solemn, perhaps even mildly light-hearted, which tends to confirm that this is not a very serious occasion.


Clip 3 of 11

Date: 2008
Duration: 2 minutes

Severe punishment for four students

This clip shows a much more severe caning, in which four senior secondary boys, aged perhaps 16 or 17, take it in turns to receive about 20 hard strokes over the clothed posterior while bending over a desk, head down (pictured right), in a formal disciplinary ceremony. The atmosphere in the room is quiet and entirely serious.

 Allegedly the reason for this punishment is that the students refused to do their homework. Of course, there may be more to it than that.

 (UPDATE: It has been suggested that this may be a "hagwon" (private after-hours crammer for extra tuition) rather than an ordinary secondary school, and that corporal punishment at such an institution probably has implicit or explicit parental consent.)

 We are calling it a "caning" for the sake of convenience but, as usual in Korea, the implement is not at all like a British (or Singaporean) punishment cane, i.e. a flexible rattan, but a thick rigid stick. In this particular instance the teacher is wielding it with both hands, something one would never do with a proper cane. In fact in some ways this could be more comparable with an American paddle, which sometimes is applied two-handed.

 The noise made on impact suggests that the stick may be of relatively lightweight wood; I think a heavier stick would probably make a duller thud. If not, this punishment would surely cause a lot of bruising, though still not nearly as much pain in total, or for as long, as if it were a proper rattan, 20 strokes with which would be completely off the graph in a school setting.

 (UPDATE: Some observers suggest the implement may actually be a hollow aluminium tube. This would probably be less painful than it looks.)

 (For comparison, note that the absolute maximum at even the toughest English school or reformatory was 12 strokes of the swishy rattan cane, and at the vast majority of schools the maximum was six, as it was until recently in Singapore (now it is three); even that could cause superficial bleeding.)

 At least one of these boys looks to have padding down his trousers, and it is surprising that the teacher does not seem to notice or bother about this. He appears to be in both a hurry and a bad temper, neither of which is the ideal condition in which to carry out this task.

 The first boy finds the pain hard to bear after a dozen or so strokes and stands up, holding his backside and protesting that his punishment should end there, but the teacher gives him very short shrift, and he submits to the rest of it with an air of agonised resignation.

 The other three youths, having seen what to expect, undergo their canings stoically, but they are clearly hurting afterwards, padding or not. The second boy clutches his buttocks as he moves away from the desk.


Clip 4 of 11

Date: 2006
Duration: 50 seconds

A severe paddling

This clip shows a secondary boy undergoing severe punishment with a paddle. The offender, who must have done something quite bad, has been told to lean forward with his hands on some filing cabinets at the back of the class. There are four very hard strokes in all, with the teacher using a two-handed grip on the paddle, which he pulls right back before each stroke, rather in the manner of a golfer (pictured right).

 The first stroke is heard but not seen while the camera is wandering about. At this point there is a brief titter from the class, but it soon stops when it becomes obvious that this is a serious matter, and from then on the atmosphere is solemn. The second and third strokes are seen in fairly quick succession, the boy gasping in pain after each stroke. After the third stroke, he jumps back, clutching his buttocks and moaning, before resuming his position for the final stroke. At the end the camera roams about again but we can still hear the student moaning, I think in a resigned rather than a complaining tone.


Clip 5 of 11

Date: 2006
Duration: 1¼ minutes

This video is much more light-hearted than the others. It also involves an unusual posture for South Korea, viz. the student is lying flat along the top of a desk, a procedure more often seen in Vietnam. In a raucously jocular atmosphere, four boys receive several strokes on the buttocks with a short, thick cane from a smiling schoolmaster. This was said to be a punishment for being late to class.


Clip 6 of 11

Date: 2010
Duration: 30 seconds

In this clip, a secondary boy is seen in the classic Korean "push-up" position undergoing punishment in the classroom. He receives 10 swats with a paddle or large ruler, on the lower posterior but also possibly in some cases on the upper thighs -- it is impossible to be sure because the view is not clear throughout, the scene evidently having been filmed with some difficulty from underneath a table. Although the swats appear fairly moderate, they are hard enough to make the boy's legs and feet twitch with pain. The atmosphere is entirely serious. Further along can be glimpsed other students in the same position; presumably they are about to be spanked or have just been spanked.


Clip 7 of 11

Date: 2007
Duration: 50 seconds

Classroom caning Extracts from this scene somehow got on to the TV news, but here we see the whole film. Three senior boys get 5 to 10 vigorous strokes of the cane each in the classic Korean push-up posture at the front of the class. This is evidently part of a longer session: another miscreant is taking up the position just as the clip ends. These are real punishments in a serious atmosphere. One can just hear what might be shouts of pain. Other students are seen crouching in the gangway, presumably also as a punishment.


Clip 8 of 11

Date: 2011
Duration: 1½ minutes

In this clip, apparently taken at a boys-only high school, a queue of 16-year-olds is lining up to be disciplined at the front of the class by their lady teacher. Each student comes forward in turn to stand facing the wall and has to take five sharp smacks across the buttocks with a paddle somewhat in the shape of a ping-pong bat, which is perhaps too lightweight to cause more than fleeting pain. The pace is measured and deliberate. The watching class is fairly noisy but the atmosphere is wholly matter-of-fact. The offenders receive their punishment calmly and then return to their seats.

 We see five students punished, and as the clip ends there are still at least five more dutifully waiting in line for their spankings.


Clip 9 of 11

Date: 2013
Duration: 1 minute

A film with restricted view, obviously made surreptitiously. It shows a student, possibly in a corridor or it might be a changing room, kneeling before the schoolmaster and then being asked to adopt the traditional "push-up" position for punishment. Six strokes with a metre rule are aimed at the seat of the pants. There is some doubt about whether this student is a boy with long hair or a girl wearing trousers.


Clip 10 of 11

Date: 2009
Duration: 1 minute

This features an angry teacher determined to cane a boy who, on being ordered to bend over, is reluctant to submit. Eventually the student gives in and assumes the classic Korean punishment posture. Two swift, hard strokes land across the seat of the boy's trousers, causing him to gasp with pain before he jumps up and refuses to take any more. He then appears, while clutching his stinging buttocks, to be pleading to be let off the rest of the punishment, and the clip ends with the situation unresolved. The cane is not a proper rattan but a very long, thick stick which the teacher wields with both hands.


Clip 11 of 11

Date: 2006
Duration: 2 minutes

Here we see a mass caning of 17 mid-teen uniformed schoolboys in a South Korean classroom. The teacher meting out discipline has adopted a sedentary position and partly obscures our view. Each student in turn gets down in front of him in the push-up stance and is caned across the seat of the trousers, mostly three strokes but towards the end some boys get five. The strokes do not sound very hard, but the atmosphere is entirely solemn and respectful, the miscreants readily accepting their punishment. Some of them bow to the teacher as they stand up after being disciplined.


blob See also: Video clips: Korea: More schoolboy punishments

blob See also: Video clips: Korea: Schoolgirl punishments

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Page updated December 2021