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South Korea Doesn't Spare the Rod
By The Associated Press, New York Times, February 4, 1999

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Lim Ke-sook's 12-year-old daughter nearly lost the sight in her right eye after a science teacher threw a textbook at her. Outraged, Mrs. Lim went to the authorities and the teacher was charged with battery.

Little did she imagine the consequences.

Her daughter's classmates pelted the girl's house with stones, overturned her school locker and refused to play with her. Then, hundreds of parents and teachers signed a petition defending the teacher.

The teacher did not mean to hurt young Hee-soon, the petitioners told the prosecutor -- only to discipline her.

``Educational motives'' drove him to throw the book at Hee-soon to stop her from chatting with a classmate while he was handing out homework, the petition said.

``I am so dismayed,'' said Lim, 36, whose suit over the incident last October is pending. ``People think my kid just had bad luck to stand in the way of a raging teacher.''

For centuries, South Korea's school credo has been: ``Spare the rod, spoil the child.''

But brutal punishment at the hands of educators has become so widespread in recent years that the Education Ministry issued a directive in October ordering schools not to ``beat students with broom sticks, ice hockey sticks, slippers, belts or attendance books.''

As a result of the government action, more children and parents are now reporting bruises, welts, split lips, broken ribs, burst eardrums and other injuries inflicted by teachers in the name of discipline.

Still, public support for corporal punishment in schools remains widespread in South Korea.

``My teacher always carried a knobby bamboo root,'' says Lee Ki-myong, a 33-year-old father of two. ``Whenever we broke rules, the stick would come out. It whistled through the air and it stung.''

``He hit you if you were late, if you had a runny nose, if you pushed and shoved in line, if you couldn't add or subtract. ... Now I know he was right. He was a shepherd guiding 50, 60 wayward kids all by himself,'' Lee said.

Surveys show 80 percent of Korean parents physically punish their children when they misbehave. Last year, Park June-chul, father of South Korean professional golfer Se Ri Pak, openly admitted to slapping her when she slacked off on practicing as a teen-ager.

By law, corporal punishment is permitted in South Korean schools only when it is ``inevitable for educational purposes.''

But it is so widely practiced that the Korean expression for becoming a teacher is ``picking up the educational stick'' and the paddle is euphemistically referred to as the ``rod of love.''

``Many teachers don't know the difference between discipline and abuse,'' said Lee Eun-ok, co-chairwoman of Parents' Solidarity for Humane Education, which is dedicated to preventing child abuse in schools. ``In many schools, we a see a rule by violence.''

Numerous complaints filed to Lee's group make clear that slapping or spanking students is routine for even such minor infractions as pierced ears or dyed hair.

In 1996, a 17-year-old girl drank pesticide and killed herself after her teacher whacked her head with a rolled-up newspaper for wearing a skirt deemed too short.

Last May, a teacher in the island province of Cheju dragged an 18-year-old high school student to a graveyard, flogged him with an ax handle and then dug a hole and buried him up to his chin.

Kim Sung-kook, a teacher of 20 years who requires his students to stand up and bow deeply when he enters, admits there are ``quite a few crazy, psychopathic teachers.''

But, he says, that should not justify depriving teachers of ``effective means of classroom control.''

``Government authorities don't know how disruptive and disrespectful today's students are. Without the stick, they will take ... charge themselves,'' Kim said.

Even some students support corporal punishment to a point.

``So stubborn are some of my classmates that they deserve some whipping,'' said 19-year-old high school student Choi Min-ji. ``But sometimes I can't help wondering if the teacher is beating us just because he had a bad breakfast.''

Memories of my schooldays in Korea
By I. S. Choi, December 2000

Grammar school, during the Japanese Occupation
It has been more than 50 years since the day my teacher slapped me on the ear. I can never forget it. Whenever the weather is hot and muggy, my ear begins to act up. Many times I have had to go to the my doctor for treatment of ear infections, discomfort and pain in that ear. As a young man, I failed my physical exam for entrance into the Korean Naval Academy because of my partial deafness in the right ear. Even now, I must protect that ear when I go swimming because it becomes infected easily.

I was nine years old. The bell rang for a change of class, and I ran to my new class to make it on time. One of the teachers, who happened to be in the hall, caught me and slapped me across the face several times for running. One blow landed on my ear. I felt a terrible pain and knew that something bad had happened. When I arrived home, my mother saw something was wrong and asked me about it. I told her what the teacher had done. The following day, my father went with me to the school to protest my treatment to the principal, who was Japanese. He would not listen. He told my father, "Tell your son not to run in the hall." There was nothing else my family could do. The beating of schoolchildren in those days was not a big deal. Teachers could slap you or beat you with a stick over the head. This is what they thought was "discipline" in that generation.

It would be good to forget that episode. But every time my ear bothers me, which is often, that ugly memory of my schooldays returns.

High school, during the Korean War
Military drill was part of all schoolboys' training during the Korean War. At our school, Kyung Dong High School, the drill instructor (who was a graduate of Kyung Dong) had an attitude. He was in his early twenties, and was required to postpone his college studies in order to do military service. It seemed to me that he went out of his way to appear as mean and tough as he could be. Maybe he wanted to hide the fact that he was only about four years senior to us, was very puny looking, and was from the same high school.

One day, in 1953, during drill, we were called to "at ease," and the drill officer was giving us a lecture. My friend and I were in the back row having a conversation. My friend smiled at something I said. At that moment, the drill officer noticed my friend smiling and must have assumed he was being disrespectful of his lecture. He ordered him to the front of the class and told him to get down on the ground and assume a push-up position. The instructor began to furiously and repeatedly pound my friend on his buttocks with a baseball bat. I think he must have struck his tail bone, because my friend suddenly cried out in pain. I was terrified he might get crippled by accident. I could not keep quiet at this. I gathered my courage, put up my hand, and shouted to the instructor to wait a moment and listen to me. I told him that my friend had not been disrespectful, but that he had only smiled at something I was saying. Without hesitating, the drill officer order me to step forward and get into the push-up position. I was not going to submit to a pounding with a baseball bat! I took off into the school building, with the officer chasing. I didn't think he would dare come after me with a baseball bat because, by now, a lot of students and teachers were watching, wondering what is going on. I ran into the general office, with him behind me, and then into the principal's office. The principal was not there, and I exited through a side door, and ran down the hall to the teachers' office. I found my home room teacher and grabbed him around the waist and asked for help. I told him what was happening and begged him to intervene. I couldn't believe the officer would dare barge into the staff office, with all the teachers watching, wielding a baseball bat. He had been a student under some of those teachers only a few years prior. At this point, the military officer probably realized how outrageous his behavior must have appeared to all the onlookers. He turned and walked away. That was the end of the incident.

At one point, near the end of that school year, my friend and I seriously discussed getting even with the drill officer after the commencement ceremony. But we decided not to risk it, but move ahead toward our future.

Years later, I learned that the drill instructor had become a career diplomat. We crossed paths twice after our university years. Until this day, I often wonder if he ever revealed his military-drill-instructor mentality in his foreign diplomatic relations and got away with it. The boy who was pounded remained my close friend for many years. He has passed away.

Cultures clashing in metro courtrooms--Old ways of doing things sometimes land immigrants on the wrong side of the law
By Milo Ippolito - Staff, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, April 22, 2000

When Young Lee was arrested for beating her stepdaughter black and blue with a cane, she claimed that's how Korean families discipline their children.

A Gwinnett County jury decided last week that Lee was the one who needed to be punished.

The caning case was the latest clash of cultures to reach a metro Atlanta courtroom. With tens of thousands of immigrants having poured into the metro area during the '90s, what to them are traditional child-rearing methods, health remedies and marital roles have sometimes run afoul of the law.

"There is an acute lack of awareness about cultural practices that gets people in trouble," says Julia Perilla, an advocate with the Latino Families at Risk Project, which works to prevent domestic violence among Hispanics. That lack of awareness applies to both sides --- immigrants and the American legal system, she said.

In the caning case, Lee testified she beat her teenage stepdaughter, who has cerebral palsy, for wearing loose blouses and torn jeans to school. Tried for child cruelty, Lee argued, in part, that caning is a traditional discipline practiced by conservative Koreans. Three Korean church pastors testified that they saw nothing wrong with the beating.

But after viewing photos of the dark bruises and red stripes covering the teen's body, a jury convicted Lee. She faces five to 20 years in prison.

The stepmother took the traditional punishment to an extreme, said Korean-born Gwinnett police Officer Christopher In, who assisted in the investigation.

"Even in Korean culture, it is beyond reasonable," In said. Still, In recalled being smacked on the hands and legs with a stick by schoolteachers as a child in South Korea.

While Georgia law gives parents the right to use reasonable corporal punishment to discipline a child, many immigrants have difficulty understanding the legal limits, observers say.

Gwinnett Magistrate Judge Chung Lee said tensions can run high in homes where parents insist on holding onto traditions while their kids just want to be American teenagers.

"Korean parents have to come to the United States and learn American culture," he said. "At the same time, Korean kids have to learn about Korean culture and understand why the parents think that way, and find a neutral ground."

Sometimes cultural practices with no violent intent also can be perceived as child abuse. Such is the case with a Vietnamese home remedy for chills and body aches. A coin or spoon is used to scrape the skin to bring the bad blood to the surface, explained Binh Le, an interpreter in the Gwinnett County courts.

"It's a tradition handed down from generations," Le said. "A lot of the doctors who have never seen that, they freak out because it does look like whip marks."

Cultural differences have the potential to end in an immigrant's deportation.

A 1996 federal law requires the deportation of legal immigrants who have been sentenced to at least one year in jail or on probation. The goal was to oust immigrants convicted of crimes of drugs and violence, but in metro Atlanta the law has led to deportation proceedings against an Ethiopian who stole a sandwich and a Nigerian who swiped two boxes of doughnuts.

Sometimes the clash with the law stems from a simple dispute among neighbors --- with a cultural twist. In several metro Atlanta communities, immigrants have been accused of animal cruelty by neighbors who witnessed them slaughtering livestock in their yards.

In November, a Hispanic family tied a goat to a neighbor's fence in Smyrna. The neighbor called police. Officers told the Hispanic family it could not have livestock in the city.

"They resolved the problem by killing the goat," said Smyrna Officer Tony Leonard. "They invited me to have a piece."

A dispute erupted in Suwanee in 1998 when a couple tried to slaughter and barbecue a goat in a subdivision.

"That usually tends to end up registering complaints from neighbors," said Gwinnett Planning and Zoning Director Mike Williams. "They just don't know. Once they're informed, they're usually pretty cooperative about correcting the problems. Most of the immigrant population wants to follow the rules."

Staff writers Mark Bixler, Christopher Quinn, Bill Montgomery and Ralph Ellis contributed to this article.

Foreign-born population, 1990: 116,000
Percent of total population: 3.9 percent
Foreign-born population, 1997: 171,000
Percent of total population: 4.6 percent
Source: Census Bureau

A Korean father's lesson on raising cane
By Petti Fong, Globe and Mail (Toronto), March 12, 2005

Vancouver — The father of the 16-year-old North Vancouver high-school student waited for his son to respond before delivering each blow with the cane.

“I'm remorseful and I'm ready,” the boy said over and over again.

Then, the father, who lives in South Korea, told a North Vancouver judge, “I would strike him. Before each blow I'd ask if he agreed this was his fault. Each time he said yes.”

For at least three hours on Jan. 19, the father, who cannot be identified under a court order, caned his son with hundreds of blows. At first, he kept his son on his knees. Then he forced him into a push-up position.

“I was emotional,” the father said, when asked how many blows he had struck. “No room to count numbers. So every time he acknowledged that what he did was wrong, I'd come up with another question.”

What the teenager, who had been sent to school in Canada, had done wrong was to skip class, stay out late and be rude to his mother.

The case has focused much unwanted attention on family discipline in Vancouver's Korean community. The father did not know that what he was doing was illegal, because caning is a traditional form of punishment in South Korea.

The father pleaded guilty to assault, and in an unusual ruling, a North Vancouver Provincial Court judge ordered the father to submit an article for anonymous publication in the local paper about what forms of discipline are acceptable.

The ruling has provoked debate, and much unwanted attention, in the tight-knit Korean-Canadian community in the Lower Mainland.

“The problem, as some view it, is the father loved his son too much,” said McKinley Ahn, a reporter with the Burnaby-based Korea Times, the paper in which the father's article is to appear before May. “Not all Koreans do such behaviour, but I understand the father's position. He sent his son to Canada, paid $27,000 a year for him to go to school in Canada, and the son did not care about his studies. The father could not accept that.”

The father's arrest surprised many because caning is not an unusual form of discipline, said Sally Kim, a spokeswoman with the Korean Society in Burnaby.

“It was something that happened in the family and inside the home,” Ms. Kim said. “At one time, it may have been common to hit children like that but the thinking has changed. Even the older people in the community think it's not right any more, especially in Canada.”

The father, a South Korean national who is the CEO of a number of international companies, sent his son and an older daughter to B.C. in 2002 to attend high school, accompanied by the children's mother. He visited frequently.

Last year, the student was an honour student, but his grades began slipping recently.

In an earlier caning on Jan. 7, the teenager said he was hit about 100 times.

At that time, the father wanted to take his son back to South Korea, but the teenager persuaded his father he would mend his ways. But five days after the father's return to South Korea, the student began skipping classes again.

The father returned to Canada and caned the teenager again on Jan. 19.

School officials called in a social worker from the Ministry of Children and Family Development who contacted police to investigate when the youth's injuries became evident the next day.

Police described the youth as shuffling, slumped over and walking like an old man.

During the police interview, the teen told officers he was hit 300 times and feared he had another 200 strikes “owing,” because he had misbehaved for five days and his father had threatened 100 strikes for each occasion of misbehaviour.

The father pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm. During his sentencing hearing, he said caning was “traditional Korean culture” and parents buy so-called “love sticks” for that purpose

While the prosecutor in the case wanted a six-month prison sentence, the judge accepted the defence argument that jail time and a fine would prevent the father from returning to Canada and would harm his children's educational prospects.

The father received a conditional discharge and was placed on probation for two years. He was ordered to give a $2,500 donation to an organization that helps abused children in addition to writing the article.

The incident has embarrassed the community, which is about 30,000 strong in the Greater Vancouver area, and focused attention on how parents discipline their children, said Don Baker, director of the Centre for Korean Research at the University of British Columbia.

When he taught in Korean schools in the 1970s, Prof. Baker said students cowered automatically when they didn't know an answer because they knew they would be hit. The incident in North Vancouver has forced some parents to reconsider their expectations for their children.

“The impact for these parents is this could have happened to them and the word would get out quickly,” Prof. Baker said.

Corinne Robertshaw, a spokeswoman for Repeal 43, an organization lobbying to force courts to criminally punish parents who spank their children, said the discharge was appropriate in this case. *

“There are severe cases and this is one of them where this kind of beating of a child is so serious that a prosecution is probably warranted,” Ms. Robertshaw said yesterday. “But it's hard to generalize using this case. Here was a father who didn't know his actions were illegal.”

The father's lawyer, Alexander Wolf, said the judge recognized that the arrest and charges have resulted in the father's loss of face within the local Korean community.

“These families want their children to have the benefit of the school system here, but they also remain very isolated and still practise traditional techniques of discipline,” Mr. Wolf said

The father didn't realize he was subject to Canadian laws governing assault, Mr. Wolf said, nor did he know that his form of discipline was illegal. The stress of the incident has taken a toll on the entire family, Mr. Wolfe said. The children's mother is now physically and emotionally ill and has returned to South Korea with the father to seek medical treatment.

The teenager and his older sister remain in North Vancouver under the care of a family paid by their parents while they finish their schooling.

*CORRECTION BY GLOBE AND MAIL, page A6, MARCH 14/05: The goal of the Repeal 43 Committee is to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which allows for corporal punishment in some circumstances. Incorrect information appeared in a March 12 article.

EDITORIAL: A reevaluation of corporal punishment
The Hankyoreh (Seoul), August 21, 2006

At a time when people still have fresh memories of violence on the part of a teacher towards a first grader in North Jeolla province, we again have a violent teacher in the news. A high school teacher in Daegu hit tardy students 100 to 200 times each, sending one of them to the hospital.

The teacher is a younger sibling of the chairman of the board of the educational foundation that manages the school, and he is reported to have gone too far in his treatment of students on previous occasions, as well. The student who ended up in the hospital says he was beaten by the same teacher last year, too. The authorities need to see whether it was because of his relationship with the chairman of the board of trustees that he was never really punished despite his habitual violence. It is because people associated with the board of trustees think that schools are their private property that this sort of violence remains uncontrolled.

What is even more important in relation to this latest situation is the way teachers think little about corporal punishment. The teacher in question defends himself by saying he tried to get discipline in order because the scholastic aptitude test was a mere 100 days off, but he "went a little overboard." In other words, corporal punishment is okay if he’s trying to give students the right kind of attitude, but he just applied too much of it. One hundred punches are too much, but perhaps 10 are okay? The physical punishment of students is not something that should be approached as a matter of how much.

Corporal punishment has long been the subject of debate. Some call it an expression of love, and some say students need to be able to defend themselves from violent teachers. Corporal punishment, is, however, basically a form of violence against the weak, not a form of education. The relationship between teacher and student is already one of power by one over the other, so the effect is that students are taught that they have to submit to those who are in power when they force their orders with violence. Furthermore, permitting legal violence contributes to an atmosphere in our society where violence is all too easily recognized as a necessity. The victims of severe cases of corporal violence are left with permanent emotional scars. Finally, it gives teachers who are particularly violent the inability to think of their actions as violent because they are just going "overboard" with actions that are legitimate.

Korean educational laws permit corporal punishment within certain limits, but that needs to be reconsidered, because of what it means for students’ basic civil rights.



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