Stop sexual abuse on campusA professor of mathematical sciences at Seoul National University (SNU) was detained after his arrest Wednesday on charges that he groped several women on multiple occasions. The prestigious university originally planned to fire Professor Kang Seok-jin without censuring him, but later said it would take disciplinary action against him depending on the results of internal investigations by the Human Rights Center at the school. SNU changed its position after a public uproar over the professor’s indecent behavior.
Korea University is also facing an angry backlash from students after school authorities halted an investigation into a professor of engineering, who was suspected of having sexually molested a female graduate student. In a statement on Thursday, the student body of the school claimed that even though the incident concerned sexual violence and a professor’s abuse of power, university authorities accepted his resignation without taking disciplinary measures and even guaranteed him an opportunity to be rehired.
More than two decades have passed since a sexual harassment case involving an assistant instructor at SNU became the first lawsuit of its kind in Korea. However, sexual misconduct by professors has not ceased. Improper conduct toward students is becoming more common. Most victims are afraid to report it to authorities for fear that their reputations and grades may be affected — or even their future careers. Professor Kang’s case eventually led to an investigation by prosecutors as multiple anonymous victims reported their own experiences after the news broke.
Recently, law enforcement agencies and courts have applied much stricter judgements on cases of sexual harrassment than before. In October, the Western Seoul District Court sentenced a professor to eight months in prison for groping a female student during his class. The Ulsan District Court also ruled in June that a college of music professor serve 18 months in jail for sexually molesting his young pupils on a regular basis.
But the way our college authorities deal with professors’ sexual misconduct is disappointing.
They often rush to get rid of the cases in fear they will damage the reputation of their schools. One university even allowed a professor to keep teaching despite a history of sexual harassment during class hours. University authorities must first conduct a thorough investigation of such cases and take disciplinary action before they go to court. That’s the only way to prevent these kinds of sexual crimes.