Corporal punishment: ‘sudden’ end

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Corporal punishment: ‘sudden’ end

Seoul education superintendent Kwak No-hyun said yesterday that all corporal punishment will be banned in schools in Seoul starting this semester, “although it may come as a sudden change for those in education.”

Critics of the ban say alternative methods of punishment must be researched further before corporal punishment is banned. But the liberal superintendent said yesterday during a forum at the Seoul Press Center that the position is a “lazy” response.

Before Kwak’s speech, the Education Ministry offered revisions to punishment regulations, including adding alternative punishment, but it did not have a timeline for instituting the changes.

“If the direction is right, then we should make our best efforts to head in that direction,” said Kwak. “I want to ask what we have done to end corporal punishment,” he added. “Supporting corporal punishment does not go along with this generation’s state of mind.

“It brought me great distress when I saw children go on as if nothing happened when cases like ‘Oh Jang-pung’ broke out,” Kwak said, referring to the 52-year-old sixth-grade teacher surnamed Oh who was handed heavy disciplinary punishment by the Education Ministry in early August after a video of the teacher beating a student in his classroom went viral on the Internet.

The teacher is facing possible criminal charges for allegedly using excessive force on students in his classroom on a regular basis, with parents of the students taking legal action.

Oh received the nickname “jang pung” - a Korean word for the martial arts skill of creating a strong blow of air with your hands - from students because “he could knock down students to the ground with just one swing of his hand.”

“I was very surprised that the students studied in the classroom and talked among each other in the classroom complacently even after they had witnessed their classmates getting beaten to the point of assault. To set an example, I will come up with substitute punishments and [disciplinary] programs for students,” Kwak said.

Kwak had said in July that he was planning to ban corporal punishment in schools, which sparked a flurry of arguments between those who were for the ban and conservative schools and parents who felt it was not the time to keep their children away from the cane.

The superintendent also spoke his mind yesterday on current education in Seoul and reconfirmed the policies he has been pushing since he came into office in July, including reformed teacher assessments and free lunches, which he said “should come from state funds.”

By Christine Kim []
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