Police make new discoveries in students’ deaths

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Police make new discoveries in students’ deaths

Authorities investigating two student deaths at Jinju Foreign Language High School in Jinju, South Gyeongsang, are expanding their probe after discovering that the second victim may have been beaten by two older students - not one, as was previously reported.

The police said they are questioning a 17-year-old student, surnamed Han, over allegations that he slapped the 15-year-old victim, surnamed Ryu, once in the face on Friday in a school dormitory before another student, surnamed Kim, 17, kicked Ryu in his abdomen, which contributed to the victim’s death.

According to the police, Han also apparently hit another 15-year-old student who was with Ryu, surnamed Mun, three times in the face.

Authorities also discovered that there were five additional second-year students and a third-year student in the room when the incident occurred. Among the students involved in the case, Mun was the only one who lived in the room.

Han is believed to have forced Mun’s other roommates out of the dorm room.

Right now, the police are looking into whether the violence was premeditated or if the other students participated, as well as whether teachers at the school were aware of the incident.

The school came under fire after two of its students died in separate episodes of school violence less than two weeks apart. In the first incident on March 31, a 15-year-old student, whose identity has not been disclosed, died after a fistfight with one of his peers.

“Aside from the actual incidents, we are going to investigate all of the students to find out other cases in which older students [have hit or abused] younger ones to keep them down,” said Hwang Cheol-hwan, who heads the violent crime department at the South Gyeongnam Provincial Police Agency.

The Ministry of Education also launched a special investigation yesterday into the Jinju Foreign Language High School and South Gyeongsang Office of Education.

“We determined that an in-depth investigation is needed because the reports from the education office turned out to be partially inaccurate when we visited the school and the education office on Sunday and Monday,” said Lee Jin-seok, a ministry official.

The special investigation team, composed of five ministry officials, is looking into measures taken by the school and the education office since the first incident, as well as the relationship and financial support between the two institutions.

“If any violations or improper measures are found in the investigation, we will heavily punish the related personnel,” Lee said.

On the sidelines of the investigation, the ministry yesterday held a meeting with school violence officials from local education offices, where it decided to crack down on schools with dormitories and strengthen school violence prevention education.

The chairwoman of Jinju Foreign Language High School’s board, Lee Im-seon, promised Monday to take responsibility for the incidents and step down from her position.

“I admit I am partly responsible for these two cases, so I will resign from my position,” she said. “However, I will complete my duties as chairwoman, and hold the funerals for the victims and stabilize the school’s operation [before then].”

BY HWANG SUN-YOON [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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