South Korea Rattled by Suicide of Bullied Teen

South Korea is stepping up its campaign against school bullying in the wake of a young victim’s suicide last week

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PEDRO UGARTE / AFP / Getty Images

A message in Korean reading "Forget Everything" placed by the South Korean government to dissuade suicides at Mapo Bridge over Seoul's Han River on Jan. 11, 2013

South Korea is stepping up its campaign against school bullying in the wake of a young victim’s suicide last week. A 15-year-old high schooler, only identified by his surname Choi, jumped out of his apartment home in the southeastern city of Gyeongsan last Monday after being bullied for roughly two years. His death — the second youth suicide in South Korea this month — has shocked the nation and called into question the government’s efforts to stop school violence.

(MORE: Seoul Launches Suicide Watchdog)

In his suicide note, Choi named five students who he says had bullied him physically and verbally since 2011. He also criticized the government-mandated, closed-circuit television cameras in schools. According to the Wall Street Journal, he wrote, “You’ll never be able to spot school violence the way it is now. There are blind spots in classrooms and restrooms where no closed-circuit cameras are installed. That is where most school violence happens.”

In a meeting held after the news of Choi’s suicide, President Park Geun-hye declared school violence as a “social ill” — along with sexual violence, domestic violence and low-quality food — and called for solutions to “eradicate” these problems. On Thursday, the administration announced that it would install high-resolution, closed-circuit cameras at schools across the country and crack down on school gangs. Courses on preventing school bullying and building more security offices in schools are also in the works.

(MORE: Fallout of Ex-South Korea President’s Suicide)

Government statistics show that suicide is the leading cause of death among 10- to 19-year-olds in South Korea, where young students often face intense pressure to conform and excel in hypercompetitive academic environments. Most young South Koreans who commit suicide are believed to do so because of bullying and family problems.

South Korea’s Education Ministry will start its first nationwide fact-finding survey on school violence for the 2013 academic year on March 25. The results of the survey, which critics have called unhelpful because of students’ tendencies to underreport cases, will help determine future antibullying-policy direction.

MORE: South Koreans Are Shaken by a Celebrity Suicide

34 comments
ps.hydro
ps.hydro

As an asian from Chinese culture, I have to say parents are the main source of this result. 10 years before, parents would let teachers to punish those kids who made bad mistakes, including bullying. Nowadays, some parents will sue teachers who try to do their jobs, and their kids learn to disrespect to the teachers and start bullying. Those teacher will face a high pressure when those monster-like parents show up. What we can do is, respect the teachers and punish the misbehavior kids of ours own. That's it. May this kids who commited suicide rest in peace.

bibleverse1
bibleverse1

We are all bullies and will be bullied. We need to equip all people with tools to recognize it within themselves and in the environment and respond in an appropriate manner.

gamja
gamja

as someone who is Korean I've known tons of kids from school that were bullied. Usually the bully's parents don't even care because they don't want their kid to have a "bad reputation" so they won't do anything about it. They basically say "its your kids fault" Its pretty sad that they think this way but most Korean moms care more about reputation over wants/needs (just like my mom -__-')

sijjistoryus
sijjistoryus

I was picked on in school. However, it was nothing like what happened to this particular student that I graduated with. His name was Adam. He was the typical "coke-bottle" glasses kid. He did seem a bit socially different, but never caused any trouble. I've never seen anyone picked on so badly. It was unreal. I remember this one day...    during lunch....   John Washburn was his name...    He was one of those kids that just physically developed before anyone else. For a middle-schooler, his forearms were huge, his neck was wide, and his attitude was ruthless. He seemed to like trouble. Everyone was scared of him. I was, too. I used to kiss his ass when he would walk by so I didn't get on his #$%# list.

Adam was standing in the lunch line. John was antagonizing Adam somehow (I was too far to hear). Adam actually stood up to him. This invited John to completely pounce on Adam. It was like something I've never seen. I just remember Adam, so skinny and frail, going down instantly, while John's forearm was moving back and forth at the speed of light against Adam's face. It was horrid and I still remember it like it was yesterday (over 20 years later). It was like a trained UFC fighter going against some small kid.


I wish I could go back and confront him myself . Since I now only fear GOD, I'd have no problem facing this John. If I got beat down... so what. Poor Adam stood up to him. I wish I could tell Adam how I still think of his bravery. He probably has no idea that someone is still thinking about that moment.

younitedstates
younitedstates

I think children in general have the undeserved reputation of  being innocent. They are cruel and ruthless. The saying, "The nail that sticks up gets hammered down," comes to mind.   A lot of bullying  I think is an innate and an unfortunate bi-product of evolution. I think compassion is the only answer although I don't think anyone can force anyone else to feel compassion for others. 

thewholetruth
thewholetruth

We have got to wake up, Parents are asleep 

1. Young people are being Cyber bullied, on cellphones and the internet

2. Texting is a secret world of teen abuse, get in their phones and stop asking permission, be a parent(They will thank you later)

3. A Girl was bullied mercilessly by other girls using cellphone pictures. It led to Self harm, teens are cutting themselves and parents are still clueless. See here   http://cuttingyourself.tumblr.com/post/45694400320/cyber-bullying-and-cutting-myself-what-parents-do

Seola1
Seola1

This is an epidemic because we make it out to be.  We glorify those who are bullied, especially after they've killed themselves.  They get accolades, love, etc. that they think they aren't getting in their normal lives.  You might even get a song from Lady Gaga, enshrining you in history forever.  Pretty nice alternative for someone who thinks they aren't getting attention in daily life.  We idolize and sympathize, leave messages of "If I'd known you, I'd have loved you" and so on.  Meanwhile, we as a society have long ago stopped teaching our kids social skills, and how to handle bullies in favor of just saying "Nope, never bully ever and if you are, tell someone else to handle it for you".  Bullies exist through ALL phases of life.  Toddlers take toys, kids in school make fun of anything and everything, adults bully all their lives trying to get ahead in the rat race.  Do this, do that.  Yet, instead of saying "This is how you cope with it." we say "Poor poor baby, suicide is the answer to getting love and you'll never have to deal with those bullies ever."  Teach kids EARLY how to cope with bullies, how to cope with negative statements and how you expect them to treat others.  We're too busy parking our kids in front of video games and snacks, to bother with teaching them extremely basic social skills.  THAT is who is to blame.  Bullies have existed since the DAWN OF TIME people.  There is no new "rash of bullying".  Zero tolerance has caught up far more innocent kids (see the kid who ate his Poptart into a mountain to which the school determined was a gun and OFFERED GRIEF COUNSELING to kids for a poptart gun or the little girl who was suspended and it will be on her permanent record she brought a gun to school... for a Hello Kitty BUBBLE gun!) than it has ever done to discourage bullies.

krazytraiin666
krazytraiin666

"His death — the second youth suicide in South Korea this month — has shocked the nation"

Meanwhile In America, we have 372 teen suicides per month, average

norton_6
norton_6

Another Child gone that didn't see a future because of Bullying. The world remembers Amanda Todd. If we could teach classes on bullying, get parental involvement, have the schools notifiy the parents of the bullies, and enforce a mandatory course for parents and the bullys and show "all of the children that have committed suicide as a result of bulling".  Anything, we have to start somewhere..

CarolBiden
CarolBiden

This story brings me so much sadness not only because I'm Korean, but because I was bullied by both my American school and Korean school peers for being an overweight kid. Bullying tears at the foundation of one's core in a way that takes a lifetime to heal and requires more than the love of parents or family and friends. Effective measures of prevention, education, support and accountability are such a big challenge in this day and age...when will it stop? My condolences to the victim's family and friends. May we never forget his story.

LisaKoopman
LisaKoopman

This is a world wide problem. The penalty has to be one so great, as to make the criminal think before doing the crime.  Bullying is a crime committed by a criminal. Until it is seen as such, acted on as such, it will never be solved. 

Scared_Silent
Scared_Silent

I am an American ex-pat, married to a Korean, and living in Korea.  The bullying problem is endemic.  I was an administrator at an American school, accredited by a major American accrediting agency.  Everyone here brushed off bullying that required several students to be hospitalized.  Teachers and administrators quit over the cover ups and corruption.  What is worse is that when we wrote letters, submitted students' statements and forwarded documentation to the American accreditation agency, the agency ignored us.  Apparently they like their fees and foreign junkets.  We are still trying. 

The first step in problem solving is to recognize that there is a problem.  It won't happen here except in the abstract.  There is too much chae-myun (face-saving, cronyism, and corruption), and American accrediting agencies are putting lipstick on these pigs.  

If anyone reading this has any pull, contact me.

badassbikerowns
badassbikerowns

@ps.hydro I completely disagree.

Some teachers actually act like bullies themselves. I've read enough autobiographies of how the older generation went through and actually saw some of it in myself. 

Most of the time, there will be an ultra-disciplinary male teacher who walks around with a cane. He won't mess with the gangsters to avoid tension. His usual victims will be the soft, quiet ones who won't fight back. The goal is to eliminate bullying altogether, not fight bullying by putting in more bullies!!

There has to be checks and balances everywhere. 

SamaraS.
SamaraS.

@gamja But who gets bullied? bullying isn't going to stop just because you're watching students while they're in school. They will leave the school eventually and if they want to bully - they'll bully. Regular human behaviour, you won't let me do it, I'll do it when you're not watching. What really needs to be addressed is why are these kids bullying.

patrickharris12
patrickharris12

@gamja if someone bullies either one of my kids, I will first confront their parents and tell them to do something about it, if they dont, then I will confront the kids doing the bullying and warn them sternly to stop, if that dosent work, I will break an arm or knock out a tooth or two, they will get the message after that.

ggSolutions123
ggSolutions123

@younitedstates not completely sure i agree with you about the byproduct of evolution comment but then again maybe i am (in a way) with the following comments: i think when kids get to a certain age they adopt a strange mentality that says bullying will condition them to be winners as adults. as they're not yet adult age, they can only speculate on what it means to compete in the adult world, so they adopt a simplistic mentality that adult winners trample adult losers because adult losers aren't aggressive and other nonsense beliefs they obtain from who-knows-where. I personally feel, at age 41, that most losers TEND to be aggressive. just look at the show Cops and ask any professional who specializes in domestic violence. associating aggression with "being a winner" is kidstuff and way off-base in the real world in most cases. when kids drag that thinking into the adult world (and many do), it can work well  for awhile, but not in the long run.

solairith
solairith

@Seola1 Agreed.  We are breeding a society of emotionally crippled people who are never given the tools to deal with life and all of it's good and bad things.  Bullying should be discouraged, but so should succumbing to it.

keefer33
keefer33

@Seola1 You don't understand the full effects.  You are correct that we are losing our way when it comes to kids handling the issues.  Back when I was young.  If you moved schools you started over.  When you went home things were quiet until you saw the bullies at school.  Now kids are followed on texts, email, facebook, etc.  They feel no escape and this follows them where ever they go.  To say "I know how to handle all these bully situations..." (paraphrase) shows that you know nothing.  No easy fix will do.  How do you cope with bullies when they gang up and constantly tease and harrass.  What punch the big one, and hope you don't get jumped.  Or deal with the threat everyday and ignore it.  If you have the magic answer please do share.  

I am so glad this issue is getting attention.  When you are an adult "bully" at least laws and workplace policies are in place to protect people somewhat.  You can't walk in your office and call someone "fatty" or some other derogatory term.  I'm not saying it does not happen but rules are in place.  Should be same logic for school kids.  Strong rules put in place.  Also why do you think kids become adult bullies?  Because enablers like you say things like this is always going on, so why stop now.  Or it's part of life.  And the kid bullies evolve into adult bullies.  Nice cycle.

You may be a nice person but you have no idea what you are talking about!

BrokeNJersey
BrokeNJersey

Yes, and the U.S. is orders of magnitude larger in both population and actual size. Not sure what your point is...

As was pointed out, it's long been known that South Korea has the highest incidence rate of suicide among the developed countries of the word. It's at least twice per 100,000 compared to the U.S. The problem is that the stigma against mental health is even greater there than it is here in the United States. Mental health issues are considered to be the result of bad parenting and hence nobody gets treatment.

Another example is the Virginia Tech shooter several years back. He had a long-standing psychiatric history dating back to his time growing up in Korea. After the shooting, they interviewed his grandmother in Korea who essentially said "He was always a bad boy growing up..."

parksle2
parksle2

@krazytraiin666 sort of goes along with the 500 plus deaths in Chicago and the country has a fit over the Newtown shooting. Heaven help us if we ever have to face reality!

veritas232
veritas232

I could not disagree more with your conclusion.

Bullying starts early as elementary school.  So you would start criminalizing 6-7 year olds?  What would be your recommended prison sentence for a 6 year old child?  What would be your recommendation if two children start calling a third child names?  What if the third child instigated?  You would want a criminal trial to take care of this matter?  Would you also charge the parent(s) of the child accused of bullying, with a crime as well (or in place of the child)? 

Children are, by their very nature, unable to make decisions with the same mature understanding and awareness as adults.  Criminalization for immature behavior is not only silly, gigantically expensive (can you imagine the cost of a single trial for a 10 year old accused bullier?  who will pay for the cost of the psychologists, expert testimony, rebuttal witnesses, guardian ad litems, early development experts, family services, etc.) but also counter-productive.  What would happen if you started jailing every child who makes fun of, or pushes, or throws food at, another child?

solairith
solairith

@keefer33 @Seola1 I had to deal with bullying and an abusive home life long before social media existed.  Social media is not to blame for failure to teach kids how to deal with bullying.

Seola1
Seola1

@keefer33 I have plenty of idea what I'm talking about, I was educated to know.  I never said my answer was the ONLY answer, it's a PART of the problem and a solution.  Instead of grief counseling over pop tarts, teach kids how to deal with things, including social media.  I never said things were better or worse before as far as bullying goes, but if kids are completely and utterly inept to handle being a target of anything (our local news made a hero out of an 11 year old boy who was bullied just two times over a T-shirt he was wearing - nothing else, no physical abuse, not on social media - a whopping TWO comments).  We need to give our kids tools to deal instead of petting, coddling and blaming others and patting them on the head, and when they die - making them heroes.  What about the family they leave behind?  How about showing kids clips of dangling feet and a mother walking in on the child?

There is no "magic answer" but there is a part of *creating* the problem and we as a society need to stop contributing to it.  Kids have always "ganged up".  Kids have been harassed since the dawn of time.  People make fun of other people and it isn't just in school and even the "bullied kids" do bullying themselves and most don't even realize it.  You CAN walk into work and call someone a bully - you might be fired, but we cannot do that to school kids - which is why coping skills then are more important than ever.  Not to mention, it's not just workplace, it's the bars, the clubs, the library, the whispers, the grocery store.  I gained weight from carrying twins and having fetal surgery put me on bedrest and spent months learning how to walk again after two pregnancies.  I have PCOS - I'm FAT.  I'm okay with it.  But if I decide to buy my kids some Oreos as a special treat, I get looks and yes, hateful comments from strangers about "Do I really need that" or whispers from others "Fatty is getting more fat" - FROM ADULTS.  I heard it from adults who grew from kids never allowed to say the word "stupid" for fear it would bring wrath from the parents.  Except that meant the moment they stepped into the real world, they had no idea how NOT to be bullies.

 I find it far more interesting that you find me "enabling" when you are preaching to enable SUICIDE.  THAT is the enabling of these kids to take their lives.  Making excuses for them constantly, and then further, going after people who see this often proposing REAL solutions to stop it before it starts, and not be reactionary.  Never did I say that bullies SHOULD do what they do, nor did I say that it was OKAY.  I said it was NOT OKAY to glorify and eternally deify kids whose parents never taught them to cope with a dang thing their entire lives because they were never taught to be independent nor self-sufficient.  There are dozens upon dozens of studies (along with recruiter anecdotes) of parents coming on job interviews to "make sure the interview goes right" or the parents coming into the workplace to demand raises, right some perceived wrong or whatever - this is part of the coping skills.  I see it everyday where parents have never taught their kids how to do anything socially - and that works BOTH ways (in fact I even mentioned it) that we not only don't teach our kids to deal with bullies but we don't teach people not to be bullies from the start.  We wait for them to BE bullies first, then decide what to do.  Parents are the forefront of this and they can teach both the ability to cope with anything that comes the kids way AND not to be bullies.

Seola1
Seola1

@moore.emmett Because I choose to be outspoken and not glorify suicide and instead look for solutions that are practical that we all can do and teach our kids instead of fear mongering over a poptart and leaving kids with no coping skills?  Oh yeah, totally bullying.  Actually I was bullied my entire school life - just like the moron below you - for being "fat" and for being poor.  But I was taught how to cope, not that suicide was the end all be all, and that I wouldn't get a party, and a song.  We sit around glorifying it and we ADD to the problem, not subtract.

keefer33
keefer33

@veritas232 You're right.  Kids are dumb and don't learn what behavior causes them to get in trouble and have loss of privledge.  So we should just let it go.  Lets keep letting it go unpunished.  That will teach them right from wrong.

 Putting kids in jail?  Are you daft.  Obviously care has to be taken, and punishments should be age appropriate.  The idea is trying to reverse this behavior with appropriate punishment.  Remember when we didn't have sexual harrasement policies.  Now that has changed, still coming along.  But it's come a long way.  It's not tolerated at work or school.  Should be the same with bully behavior.