Teacher under fire over video clip

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Teacher under fire over video clip

The Ministry of Education on Thursday launched an investigation at a high school in Seoul over a report that one of its teachers had shown a video clip containing questionable remarks about President Park Geun-hye and her late father.

The ministry sent two auditors to the high school, located in Gangnam District in southern Seoul, to question the teacher who showed the controversial video and three students.

A civic group claimed Wednesday that the teacher had shown a controversial video clip last month during class. The Blue Union civic group said it recently received a tip from a student about what happened in the classroom on Sept. 18.

According to the student’s account, the teacher showed the students a video clip, titled “Korea’s Modern History Reflected on the Sewol Sinking.”

On April 16, 2014, the Sewol ferry capsized in waters on Korea’s southwestern coast, killing 304 people, mostly high school students. The tragedy laid bare the government’s inefficient response and the corrupt ties between the public and private sectors.

The teacher - who teaches English, not history - allegedly showed the video to his homeroom students.

The clip was a lecture presented in November by Professor Han Hong-koo, a historian at Sungkonghoe University, at a public event.

In the video, Han notes that the late President Park Chung Hee was arrested in 1948 over an alleged connection to the Workers’ Party of South Korea, when the country was purging suspected Communists.

But Kim Chang-ryong, who was heading the investigation at the time, released Park, Han said in the lecture.

“[Kim] killed many people, but he kept one person alive who was supposed to have died,” the professor said. “If Park Chung Hee had died back then, he could have not become president.

“That is before our sister was born,” he said in an apparent reference to President Park Geun-hye. “She could have not been born, but [Kim] made it possible for her to live.”

After showing the video, the teacher asked the students to submit their reports.

“This is not an official audit, but a fact-finding probe, since the media have largely reported on the incident,” one of the auditors said. “We will decide on our next step after the investigation.”

An official from the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, who accompanied the students during the interview, said that the students had claimed their teacher normally did not make political comments.

The teacher defended his actions during an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday, saying he was only trying to teach his students to have a sense of justice.

“A theft took place in my classroom, but the majority of the students turned a blind eye to it,” he said. “I contemplated what I could do to teach them a sense of justice.”

He said he also prepared a lecture by a conservative figure to provide a diversified perspective but that he had not shown it to them.

“I am not a member of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union,” he said. “I have never participated in a political activity.”

The school said its board of directors will decide on disciplinary action against the teacher if deemed necessary.

Professor Han has a doctoral degree from the University of Washington, where he studied the Korean independence movement against Japan, with an emphasis on Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea. He is the grandson of Yu Chin-o, who crafted Korea’s Constitution.

BY BAEK MIN-KYUNG, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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