Bullying in the nation's schools is now a significant social problem and has reached a level at which it can't be ignored.
A second-grade middle school boy in Daegu who was victimized by a number of other students killed himself in despair. A middle school girl in Daejeon committed suicide for the same reason. The level of violence and stealing of money among children bears some similarity to the actions of organized gangsters. This reminds me of some true stories.
The first is about a boy named Kim. He switched elementary schools three times because of his father's job. He was not particularly tall, but was a smart, good-looking boy who was more sociable and loyal than others in his class. After he became class president, most of the other students were jealous. He was a bit weak-minded, so a couple of them made fun of him and bullied him every day.
He told nobody about it, but, one day, his mother happened to hear what was going on. She found the bullies and admonished them gently for their misbehavior. The bullying continued, however. Even though the teacher knew exactly what was happening, he took no action to correct the situation.
In the fall of his fifth grade year, Kim called out the lead bully. When he met the boy named Rhee in a vacant lot behind the school warehouse, he beat him repeatedly with a club he had hidden. He then warned Rhee, who had broken down in tears not to ostracize him again. Kim warned him that if the bullying continued, he would break his legs. Surely enough, the bullying stopped.
My other story is about Suh. After graduating from medical school, he was commissioned as a first lieutenant and sent to a frontline military camp. He too was not very tall but he was a taekwondo champion with a black belt. In short, he was gifted both in terms of his brain and his body.
There was a captain at the camp named ``M" who had been a city gangster before training at the infantry officer training school. He began bullying Suh, insisting that he was arrogant and didn't salute him. For nearly two months, he would insult and abuse him in front of the enlisted men, even kicking him in the shins, for no reason.
One day, Suh reached his limit. He challenged the captain to a fight, telling him he didn't want to live a day longer because of his harassment.
They stood in the narrow space between the medical company building and company barracks, staring into each other's eyes and removed their rank badges. In a flash, Suh jumped and kicked the captain in the side. The captain fell, foaming at the mouth. The officers and enlisted men who were watching shouted loudly and applauded because they saw what looked to be a scene out of a western.
The lieutenant helped the captain to his feet and warned him never to harass anyone again for no reason, saying that if he did, he would kill him. That put an end to bullying in the camp.
The colonel of the regiment called the lieutenant into his office soon after and congratulated him for his actions, saying that the captain had caused him many problems. He asked Suh to lead the way in improving the atmosphere in the camp to make it as good as possible.
Even though the education ministry and the police have sworn to root out school violence, I don't think their plans will be effective. In the name of student rights, teachers have lost the authority to control children’s behavior. How can we expect them to correctly teach and guide misbehaving students?
The education ministry should change the system. Complicated tasks should be handled by the administration so that teachers can focus on education and improving the character of the students in their classes. I challenge the minister to see what things are actually like in the nation's classrooms, rather than just read the policies drawn up by his staff. I think the situation would become clear to him if he did.
Finally, I think the parents of children who may feel weak in mind or body should sign up to train in martial arts for at least three years, so they can earn a third degree black belt. Then they can stick up for themselves and other kids who suffer from bullying.
The writer is professor at Jeju College of Technology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.