Stopping bullying starts at home
Bullying exists among grown-ups as well. More than 30 years ago, when I first arrived in Texas, I was an outcast. When I said I was from Korea, people associated me with the Korean War. I was a small Asian woman who was not proficient in English. I may have smelled like garlic. Once a week, I attended a church meeting. I wasn’t thrilled to go, but every time I dressed up, hoping someone might approach me. But with my broken English, I got only short answers. I was standing at one corner with a smile, hoping one of them would talk to me, but I was invisible to them.
After a month of torment and solitude, I came up with a strategy. I memorized a couple of sentences to start a conversation. So I have gotten out of being an outcast, but I can still remember the painful loneliness and sense of isolation. Thanks to my experience, I always make sure I speak with the mothers of multicultural families.
Any one of us can be an outcast in an unfamiliar setting. Nowadays, the bully game, or T-ara game, is spreading among elementary school students. On July 30, Kim Gwang-su, president of Core Contents Media, announced the agency ended its contract with Hwa-yeong of the girl group T-ara. He claimed she had refused to make an appearance on a live TV show and the rumor that Hwa-yeong had been bullied by other group members spread.
It is hardly surprising that the T-ara bully rumor led to the T-ara game; children copy everything the idol stars do. A group of friends would point at one person as an outcast, and the others would exclude and bully that person. If you don’t participate, you become the next target.
Those who are excluded and isolated may grow up to become socially unfit. They may commit suicide or become violent offenders. We have heard many criminals say that society drove them to commit crimes. It is just shocking that young children consider such terrible behavior a game. It is like watching children playing with a dragon fly, taking out the wings one by one.
Now we grown-ups have homework to do. Let’s look around and see if there is any child or adult who is isolated, estranged or excluded. Let’s see if our own children are harassing and tormenting others, slowly killing the dragonfly. Let’s give guidance to the children and teach them that any one of them could be alienated sometime, some place. It is far more important to understand the pain of others than English textbooks.
Teaching respect for others should be a priority for parents.
* The author is a guest columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Eom Eul-soon