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.
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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.
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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.