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Religions unite against school bullies

Suicide of teenager sparks campaign as rights law meets opposition

Religious leaders appealing for an end to school violence (photo: Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education)
Religious leaders appealing for an end to school violence (photo: Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education)
  • ucanews.com staff, Seoul
  • Korea
  • January 27, 2012
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Religious leaders have agreed to join forces to try and combat the growing menace of bullying at school following the suicide of a middle school student in Daegu in December.

Although suicides are not uncommon in Korea the death of the boy, surnamed Kim, made headlines because of the long suicide note he left his parents expressing his love for them and what he was subjected to before leaping to his death from a window at his apartment.

In his note the 14-year-old Kim said he was beaten and underwent “water torture” at the hands of two other boys who would follow him home every day and abuse him.

The case has sparked a great deal of soul-searching in over the issue of bullying in schools and has also prompted leaders from the country’s six main religions to issue an appeal yesterday calling for a joint effort to end what many now see as a growing problem.

Their appeal came in the form of an open letter which they read out at a meeting yesterday at the Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education.

“All of us should regret our wrongdoings because we have neglected suffering students and school violence,” they said.

“Every effort will be made to come up with ways to prevent school violence,” they added.

Archbishop Thaddeus Cho Hwan-kil of Daegu said: “We will cooperate to instill a culture of respect for others and help strengthen the education system to produce students with better character.”

Superintendent of the Daegu education office, Woo Tong-ki, also announced a new campaign called “Stop Violence” which promises to severely punish school bullies.

Religious and civic groups, as well as the Daegu Police have all agreed to participate in the campaign.

Meanwhile, Catholic educators welcomed the promulgation yesterday of an ordinance by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education to protect student rights, including regulations prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or religion and corporal punishment, while guaranteeing religious freedom.

But the education ministry filed a petition with the Supreme Court to invalidate it, saying the ordinance could create confusion in schools, especially among teachers in their student guidance.

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