By Na Jeong-ju
Citizens in Daegu are in a panic following the suicide of the eighth student in six months on Saturday.
A feeling of sadness and despair gripped schools in the southeastern city as some people, angered by educators who failed to stop what they called copycat suicides, staged rallies to denounce their irresponsibility.
Some even urged Daegu’s top educator Woo Tong-ki to resign, taking responsibility for the students’ deaths.
Since a 14-year-old boy killed himself on Dec. 20 apparently due to bullying by his peers, seven more students in Daegu did the same. Most of them had been victims of school brutality.
“It’s unprecedented in this city that so many students commit suicide in such a short period of time. Who should take responsibility for this?” a citizen wrote on the homepage of the Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education.
The citizen said she is the mother of two children attending elementary and middle schools in Daegu, “Should I just hope that such unfortunate things won’t happen in my children’s schools?” she asked.
According to police, the latest victim, surnamed Kim, 15, suffered from violence at school. In online messages he exchanged with friends and a three-page suicide note he wrote several months ago, he said he had been bullied by a schoolmate for years.
“I’m going to explode. I’ve been enduring this situation for two years. I defied him as I couldn’t stand it anymore, but I was defeated. I can’t live like this,” Kim said in a message.
Kim reportedly wrote a suicide note in January after being beaten by friends. He tore the note into pieces, but his parents later found tit in his room and asked what it was about. At the time, Kim said it was nothing and that there was no problem in his school life.
In the suicide note, Kim wrote that, “I’m very sorry to mom, who loved me very much. I feel guilty for venting anger at my father. Forgive me.”
Why are so many suicides occurring in Daegu?
Experts say there are few differences in the methods of teaching between schools in Daegu and other areas, but there is some rigidity in Daegu in terms of relationships between teachers and students.
“It’s probably a matter of the regional culture. Parents in Daegu are very respectful to teachers. They rarely challenge the authority of teachers. Students there are also obedient,” said Choi Seung-won, a psychology professor at Daejeon University. “Such a particular environment may have led to a lack of communication between teachers and students.”
Early this year, the school, which Kim attended, provided counseling to students in a bid to help bullied students. Kim, however, didn’t speak about his feelings frankly at the time.