[Editorial] Korea must act to stop powerful parents of school bullies from further harming victims

Posted on : 2023-02-27 17:04 KST Modified on : 2023-02-27 17:04 KST
Chung took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, where he ultimately lost, but still met his goal of stalling time
(Getty Images Bank)
(Getty Images Bank)

The appointment of former prosecutor Chung Sun-sin as chief of the National Police Agency’s National Office of Investigation, which only lasted a day before Chung’s fall from grace, has brought the darker side of South Korean society into the light.

This incident revealed a reality in which reasonable measures to deal with perpetrators of school violence like bullying are tampered with by powerful parents.

The controversy over so-called “parental privilege” is nothing new, but this case is particularly disturbing as it goes beyond merely pointing out the lack of fairness to showing how this can lead to heinous secondary harm to victims of classroom violence. Correcting the legal system is of utmost importance, as this crime was committed by exploiting loopholes in the system.

The court’s verdict reveals the extent of Chung’s unacceptable behavior. Chung’s son repeatedly used profanity to verbally abuse two of his classmates when he was a freshman in high school in May 2017. One of the students was hospitalized twice for post-traumatic stress disorder and is known to have attempted suicide.

The school confirmed the report and ordered Chung’s son to transfer to another school. However, Chung, an active prosecutor at the time, filed an administrative lawsuit and an administrative injunction against the transfer. The second affidavit submitted to the school was even “coached” by Chung himself.

Chung took the case all the way to the Supreme Court, where he ultimately lost, but still met his goal of stalling time. His son was transferred in February 2019, only after they lost the Supreme Court case, and went on to attend a prestigious university via regular admission the following year.

However, while the prosecutor was using his legal expertise to fight a protracted battle, the victim had to endure something akin to torture, as they had no choice but to share school hallways and classrooms with their tormentor after the initial transfer order was reversed.

The Hankyoreh has reported that, as the parents of school violence perpetrators bring more and more cases to court, the legal market for school violence cases is growing. The goal of such lawsuits is to ensure their children are admitted to college. In allowing school bullies and their parents to stall for time, taking such cases to court can prevent bullying from making it onto a perpetrating student’s record before college entrance exams.

Of course, this may only be true for a small percentage of privileged parents, but it is a shame that such misguided parental love that does not consider the kind of suffering the victims of school bullying must go through, is changing the legal field.

There have recently been several belated exposés about bullying cases involving celebrities. The passage of time alone does not easily undo the pain carried by victims of bullying. As a society, we must do all that we can, including improving the current legal system so that reports of school bullying are passed along to universities even if the final judgment is made in the last term of the last year of school.

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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