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School Teacher Imprisoned For “Bullying” A Student To Death

Kim Gun Woo

Kim Gun Woo | Photo: NewsPoole.kr

A teacher at Youngshin Middle School in Pohang City in South Korea has been imprisoned after a student committed suicide because the teacher scolded and humiliated in front of the class.

The unidentified school teacher referred only as “A” was convicted of child abuse and sentenced to 10 months in prison and had his teaching license suspended for 5 years on April 26.

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Reports by multiple South Korean media has it that he shamed the 9th grade student Kim Gun Woo in front of the whole class after catching him reading a light manga novel. The student is reported to have been so distraught that he took his own life that same day.

The conviction has been met with mixed reactions as some accused the teacher of bullying while others expressed the fear that it may prevent other teachers from disciplining students when need be.

According to reports, the tragic events that led to Woo’s death unfolded during an Ethics class on March 25, 2019. Woo was “caught” reading a copy of Wise Man’s Child, a light manga novel by Japanese author Tsuyoshi Yoshioka, by his teacher.

A subsequent investigation later revealed that ‘A’ himself had asked the students to spend the class reading, but the ethics teacher reportedly had a problem with Kim’s choice of reading material.

The book had images of scantily clad girls in bathing suits and Kim had reportedly borrowed the book from a classmate. The Ethics teacher took the student to the front of the classroom and scolded him for reading a racy manga, accusing him of “looking at pictures of naughty girls in bikinis”. As punishment, he made Kim do push-ups in front of his colleagues for 20 minutes.

The punished student was so humiliated by the experience he didn’t go out with his mates to the schoolyard when it was time for Physical Education. He stayed behind in class, scribbling a message in his ethics textbook. It was the last thing he did before jumping from a 5th floor window and ending his own life.

“I don’t want to live anymore… Thank you for giving my colleagues a perfect excuse to tease and bully me. You don’t even know what light novels are. It’s a whole sub culture, but you don’t care. How do you know they’re inappropriate? I know I am not without fault in this… but you have violated my privacy and I feel completely humiliated. Please don’t scold [the classmate who lent him the book]…” Kim Gun Woo’s final message read.

Police started an investigation into Kim’s tragic end immediately, and by August of 2019, in light of the uncovered evidence, the boy’s heartbroken parents filed a complaint against ‘A’.

A year after the student’s death, Daegu District Court’s Judge Shin Jin Woo issued a verdict against the ethics teacher: 10 months in prison and then 5 years of having his teaching license suspended.

“The accused is at fault for psychologically abusing the student and causing him to take his own life. Plus, considering that the accused showed no interest in settling with the victim’s family, the verdict had been inevitable,” the judge motivated her decision.

Further reports have it that the teacher “had shown no regret for his actions” and instead “blamed the boy’s family for letting Kim read ‘books like that’ at school.” He also defended his previous record, telling the court that “in all his years of teaching at the school, Kim was the first one to have taken his own life after being confronted”.

Kim Gun Woo’s case has once again drawn attention to sensitive issues like student shaming and corporal punishments not only in South Korean schools, but all over the world.

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