Teacher accused of earlier abuses
The teacher surnamed Yang is in police custody after video of her smacking a 4-year-old girl on Jan. 8 went viral and became a national sensation. Since the video was released, parents of other children at her day care center in Yeonsu District, Incheon, have submitted written complaints of similar abuse in the past, which police described to the press Friday.
“The teacher forced children to finish their meals,” said Lee Sung-ho, chief of the Incheon Yeonsu Police Precinct, which is investigating the case, at a packed press conference Friday. “When they spat out their food, she forced them to swallow it again and slapped them [if they couldn’t do it].”
Last September, police said, Yang allegedly slapped a student on his back for dropping rice from his mouth during lunch.
She allegedly slapped another girl student in the face last November for having left mushrooms on her tray.
On Friday, police filed an application for a pre-trial detention warrant for Yang, 33.
A key issue for the court to grant the warrant is to prove that Yang habitually abused children. But with continuing public uproar over the case, it’s likely the court will grant the warrant to put the teacher behind bars before she is indicted.
The accusations against the teacher runs counter to her claim that smacking the 4-year-old, which was recorded by surveillance cameras on Jan. 8, was a one-time thing and that she had never been violent before.
But police said Friday that four of her fellow teachers have testified that she used to scream at children. The co-workers said she had been warned to tone down her scoldings to stop scaring the children.
Before she was brought in for a second round of questioning Thursday night, Yang told reporters that the Jan. 8 smack was an anomaly and that she had never beaten young children before.
She added that she would like to kneel down in front of the victim to apologize.
The chief of the Incheon Yeonsu Police Precinct said they arrested Yang Thursday evening out of concern that she might try to flee because her phone was turned off.
He admitted the public was calling for the authorities to deal sternly with the case.
Yang continued to deny during her second questioning that she hit toddlers before Jan. 8. According to police, she said she lost her temper that day.
The government rushed to draw up child abuse preventive measures and tougher punishment for abusers.
The Ministry of Health and Welfare, which oversees day care centers, and the ruling Saenuri Party agreed to require every day care center to install CCTV systems to monitor classes and to shut down centers if there is a confirmed case of child abuse.
Calls for CCTV installations at day care centers have been thwarted in the past. Critics said it could breach fundamental rights of day care teachers and staff.
Under existing law, day care centers are subject to a three-month suspension for their first case of child abuse and a six-month suspension for a second case. Only after a third confirmed case are day care centers closed.
As public horror showed little signs of abating, lawmakers expressed remorse for having failed to prevent the case.
Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung said the video footage shocked him more than any other incident since the Sewol sinking last April.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]