Recently, the voice of strengthening teaching authority is growing in the wake of an incident in which a new teacher at Seoi Elementary School in Seocho-gu, Seoul made an extreme choice. In this regard, on the 30th of last month, according to Ministry of Education data collected by the Office of the People’s Power member of the National Assembly Education Committee, Jeong Kyung-hee, from 17 metropolitan and provincial offices of education nationwide, 100 public elementary, middle and high school teachers made extreme choices over the past six years from 2018 to the end of June this year. appeared dead.
It was the same on August 5, 2017. Song Kyung-jin, who worked as a mathematics teacher at Sangseo Middle School in Buan, Jeollabuk-do, was found dead at 2:30 pm on the same day in the warehouse of his home in Gimje-si. She was investigated by the Jeonbuk Office of Education due to suspicion of sexual harassment by a disciple.
The incident dates back to April 19 of the same year. At that time, some parents raised a problem with teacher Song, saying, ‘I made inappropriate physical contact with a female student’. Teacher Song hit the knee of her female student who was shaking her leg, which resulted in another student who saw this and misunderstood that she was touching her thigh.
Sangseo Middle School reported teacher Song to the police for sexual harassment, and he was suspended for three months from April 24 to July 24 of that year.
Teacher Song, receiving psychiatric treatment at the time, told the doctor, “His reputation was greatly damaged as he was accused of sexual harassment and even reported in the media. It is unfair. I can’t even sleep,” he said. He was diagnosed with ‘anxiety/depressive disorder caused by severe stress’ and underwent drug treatment. Teacher Song had no history of receiving treatment from a psychiatrist before.
Feeling resentful, Teacher Song called his female student’s father. The girl’s father said, “The scene where Teacher Song hit her daughter’s knee was misunderstood as another student touching her thigh. I think it’s nothing,” he said. “I was going to tell the principal about this, but the mother of the girl who witnessed it made it big. She will go to the police station and drop her report,” she said. In response, the police judged that there was light physical contact, but it was not sexual harassment, and the internal investigation was closed.
Jeonbuk Office of Education Continues Investigation Despite End of Internal Affairs and No Punishment
However, the Jeonbuk Student Human Rights Education Center conducted an ex officio investigation and concluded that ‘Teacher Song violated the students’ right to personality and self-determination’.
In this regard, according to a post posted on the bulletin board of the Blue House National Petition in 2018 by Kang Ha-jeong, teacher Song’s wife, the Student Human Rights Education Center threatened Song, who claimed innocence, saying, “(If that happens), students may be punished for being innocent.” put it
Mr. Kang claimed that a coercive investigation was conducted at the time, saying, “In that closed room where the air conditioner was turned on, her husband was sweating so much that his suit was drenched in cold sweat and his face was white.”
At the time of the ex officio investigation, the students said, ‘I wrote that another teacher took me to the classroom and praised me because I had to write everything down, and that I touched all the things that said that shaking my legs would hurt my luck.’ A petition was filed, but was not accepted.
Eventually, in August of that year, the Jeonbuk Office of Education initiated disciplinary procedures. Teacher Song, who could not resolve his regret, said that he had a last meal with his mother ahead of his extreme choice. He then went to the auspicious center where he had lived for five years, cleaned up his belongings, and left a suicide note saying ‘I’m sorry to everyone’. His 30-year teaching career ended like that.
About 200 students and parents visited Mr. Song’s funeral home. Among them, there were many alumni. The graduates said, “I can’t believe why such a good teacher had to go through this.”
Superintendent Kim Seung-hwan, head of Jeonbuk Education, did not appear at the funeral. It is said that he did not even send artificial flowers. At the time, Ms. Kang claimed, “The Jeonbuk Office of Education tried to force her innocent husband to overturn the guilt,” and “the Human Rights Center drove her husband to death through a coercive investigation.”
80 days after teacher Song’s death, a government audit was held for the Jeonbuk Office of Education. Criticism followed, saying, “As the Jeonbuk Office of Education unreasonably launched an investigation, Teacher Song made an extreme choice.” There was even an argument that a National Assembly-level fact-finding committee should be created.
However, Superintendent Kim said, “Just because you are not subject to criminal punishment does not mean that you are exempt from discipline. The Student Human Rights Center also conducted an investigation in accordance with due process.” There were no apologies.
The wife who continued the administrative lawsuit… Recognized as ‘defeated’ in 3 years
Teacher Song’s wife, Ha-Jeong Kang, requested the Office of Personnel Innovation at the end of 2017 to pay for survivors who died on the job, but the Office of Personnel Innovation refused, saying it was “not a job loss.” Kang faced an administrative lawsuit. If her husband’s unfair death were buried like this, she would never be able to restore her honor.
The long and tedious fight ended after 3 years. On June 16, 2020, the 3rd administrative division of the Seoul Administrative Court (Chief Judge Yoo Hwan-woo) sided with Kang. The court said, “We cancel the decision to pay her survivors’ wages made to Mr. Kang by the head of the Personnel Innovation Department.” The cost of the lawsuit was also ruled by the head of the안전놀이터 Personnel Innovation Department.
The judge said, “Teacher Song was investigated for physical contact with students that occurred in the course of performing her duties, and she died from extreme mental stress.” He accepted Kang’s argument, saying, “I would have thought that my self-esteem as an educator, which I had accumulated for 30 years, was denied.”
When the ruling was announced, the Federation of Korean Teachers’ Organizations (Korean Federation of Teachers’ Association) issued a statement on June 29 of that year, saying, “With this ruling, it was revealed that the Student Human Rights Education Center conducted an unreasonable investigation and initiated disciplinary action in the death of teacher Song.” The Human Rights Center should take moral responsibility and offer a sincere apology,” he urged.
“Teacher Song is a victim of the ‘student human rights defender’ system created in accordance with the Jeonbuk Students Human Rights Ordinance.” will have to do,” he said.
The National Human Rights Commission Act stipulates that ‘if the victim does not want an investigation and the investigative agency’s investigation is concluded, the human rights complaint is dismissed’. On the other hand, according to the Jeonbuk Students Human Rights Ordinance, which served as the basis for the investigation of Teacher Song, human rights defenders can conduct an ex officio investigation even if the victim does not want to investigate, even if the judicial authority has closed the internal investigation.
On the day the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Federation demanded an apology, superintendent Kim posted on his Facebook page titled ‘Jeonbuk Student Human Rights Day Contest Award Ceremony’. He said, “After hearing the explanations of the winners’ works, I felt a lot of apologetic feelings as the superintendent of education. It is because student human rights are still an unfamiliar and heterogeneous concept to older generations who have not received proper human rights education.”
A parent from Jeonju who saw this article said, “Superintendent Kim seems to have posted this article to the effect that there is no problem because the investigation was conducted against teacher Song in accordance with the ordinance to protect student human rights.” Rather, it is the attitude of Superintendent Kim toward teacher Song Gyeong-jin.”
Teacher Song’s wife, Ms. Kang, said, “This ruling is a natural result, but I am not very happy.” Ms. Kang said, “It is Superintendent Kim who did not come to condolences let alone harmony when her husband died. I don’t expect the Jeonbuk Office of Education to apologize now.”
Meanwhile, on July 18, 2023, female teacher A, who was working as a homeroom for the 1st grade at Seoi Elementary School in Seocho-gu, Seoul, was found dead on her campus. She was presumed to have been an extreme choice as there was no evidence of murder. Currently, many suspicions have been raised online and in the educational world, such as the parents’ abuse of power, over the background of the choice of the theater group.
In this regard, a large-scale rally of teachers demanding normalization of public education is scheduled to be held near the Seoul Government Complex in Jongno-gu, Seoul from 2:00 pm on the 5th. The first teacher assembly was held on the 22nd of last month in front of Bosingak in Jonggak, Seoul, and the second assembly was held on the 29th of last month near the Seoul Government Complex in Jongno-gu, Seoul. The scale of participation is gradually increasing, with organizers estimating 5,000 people in the first rally and 30,000 in the second.