Corpun file 22845
Korea Herald, Seoul, 26 December 2010
Schools buckle under corporal punishment ban
By Robert Lee
A screen capture of a video that surfaced last week shows a student
(right) rebelling against his teacher after he was told to be
In less than two months since corporal punishment was banned
at schools in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, a string of incidents
seemingly related to the ban has taken place, sparking
controversies over the wisdom of the measure.
On Dec 16, a male high school student assaulted his female
teacher while attempting to leave the classroom. The teacher
suffered punches and kicks to her head and body, which landed her
The incident left many concerned about the state that schools
were in after the ban.
"As someone who shares the same occupation, I felt extremely
outraged when I heard about the incident," said Kim
Jang-won, a high school teacher in Seoul.
Further causing outrage among netizens, a viral video that
surfaced on Dec. 18 showed a middle school classroom of unruly
students asking a young female teacher sexually inappropriate
questions, including ones about her first sexual encounter.
While agreeing with the overall idea of banning corporal
punishment, many professionals argue that the ban may have been
hastily implemented and teachers should have been given certain
rights, or at least guidelines, before the ban was simply taken
"Banning corporal punishment simply to relieve the
incitement or protest (of parents) will bring lots of
problems," said Oh Sung-sam professor of education
evaluation at Kunkuk University.
"It is well intended, but the problem is that teacher's
authority and other necessary issues should have been secured
first," said Kim, whose complaint was unanimous among other
teachers as well.
Click to enlarge
Kim Ji-hyeon, a middle school teacher in Seoul, is against the
ban on corporal punishment. She said that substitute structures
have not been put in place since the ban, so the lack of
effective sanctions has left things "very chaotic."
A middle school teacher in Seoul said that although there is no
visible change in his classroom, he has noticed more instances of
bullying among students.
"For most of the students, teachers have a 'knowhow' in
focusing their attention, but there are always those few that you
have to punish, so it's hard to deal with them," said Kim
"The classroom atmosphere changes quite easily with just one
or two kids."
Another middle school teacher in Seoul said that the classroom
atmosphere has changed, and that the troublesome students find
the new ban as a godsend.
Some experts, however, note that the recent seemingly troubling
occurrences in schools are nothing new, and other factors need to
be taken into consideration.
"I experienced similar instances when I was first
appointed," said Won Gyu-wang, a high school teacher, adding
that the sexual questions are a commonplace for teens.
He said that through experience, teachers learn to divert these
situations with ease.
But professionals agree that a ban on corporal punishment is
"For certain teachers, it doesn't matter whether or not
there is a ban on corporal punishment, but there are teachers who
let corporal punishment get out of hand. In those cases I think
taking away corporal punishment is a good initiative," said
a middle school teacher.
According to the father of the student who assaulted his teacher,
the teacher supposedly ordered her students to hit each other as
punishment, which led to the student's violent fit.
With the media linking the recent incidents to the ban on
corporal punishment, experts caution not to make that
correlation. They said that many factors come into play.
The biggest factor is the lack of family education, according to
"In my personal opinion this goes beyond the issue of
corporal punishment but rather our societal tendency to focus on
student rights and parents giving their children
everything," said Oh.
He said that if parents want a ban on corporal punishment, they
should look to their own homes first. He said that family
education is nonexistent, resulting in children's lack of
"The incidents of violence are not the result of the ban on
corporal punishment, but those are a result of misplaced family
educational values and the education system," said Oh.
"Students can be thieves and vandals, but if they take a
test and receive high marks, then mothers welcome them with open
Oh said that sheltered students without authority figures will
rebel and react in "unimaginable" ways when facing a
According to experts, the education system needs to be based on
more than just grades and university admissions.
Teachers also said that a percentage of students lose interest in
their studies because they cannot understand the content. These
students are usually the ones with difficult backgrounds either
financially troubled families or disinterested parents.
Follow-up: 9 January 2012 - Student rights ordinance up for re-discussion
About this website
Search this site
Country files: School corporal punishment in S. Korea
Other months for school CP in South Korea: