Korea: Teachers’ Day, the heaviest burden?

“What anniversary imposed the heaviest burden on you?” This was the topic of a poll at a discussion section of a portal site in Korea on Parents Day. Guess what? The highest number of votes went to Teachers’ Day.

May 15 is Teachers’ Day, for appreciating teachers in Korea. But the Day has been controversial in Korean society for a long time. The usual custom of Teachers’ Day has been the day that students express their appreciation to the teachers and sometimes the true meaning has been deteriorated by material gifts. Parents felt a strong duty to send nice gifts to teachers for their own children at school. Teachers have been blamed for taking bribes no matter whether they were willing to take them or not. Shifting Teachers’ Day to one of the vacation dates or making it a school holiday has been mentioned as alternative solutions. 45 percent of the primary schools in Seoul decided to take a day off on Teachers’ Day this year.

Following Teachers’ Day, some bloggers like ‘Small Mind’ elaborate strategies how to spend Teachers’ Day well.

자 올해부터는 자식들 담임에게 일절 선물, 상품권, 현금 등등을 주지말자
그리고 5월 14일 밤에 불끄고 누워자기 전에 초등학교 6년, 중학교 3년, 고등학교 3년 동안 자기를 거쳐갔던 수많았던 선생님중에 신세진 것이나, 고마웠던 일을 한 가지만 생각 해 보자.
다음날인 5월 15일 박카스나 비타 500 한 박스를 들고 그 선생님을 찾아뵙고 감사의 인사를 드리자. 자식을 데리고 가면 금상첨화가 되겠다.
자식은 그 부모의 모습을 보고 선생을 존경하는 마음이 생길 것이며, 이후 학교생활이 달라질 것이다. 교사는 자기를 존경하는 학생에게 손길 한 번 더 갈 것이다.
절대 앞에서 뇌물을 주고 뒤에서 자식 듣는 앞에서 욕하지 마라. 자식이 보고 배운다.
스승의 날에는 자기의 스승을 찾아보는 날이다. 자식들 스승은 자식보고 챙기라고 해라. 감사의 편지나 카네이션 만들기 등…

From this year, let’s not give any gift, gift certificate, or cash to the children’s teachers.
And on the night of the 14th of May, let’s turn the lights off. Before you fall asleep, think about all the teachers you have been through from primary school’s 6 years, middle school’s 3 years, and high school’s 3 years.
The next day, let’s visit the teacher you would like to appreciate with a box of vitamin drinks and express your appreciation to him or her. It will be better if you can bring your own children.
Watching the scene, your children will have heart to respect ‘teachers’ and their school lives will change as well. The teacher will give more love to the students who respect them.
Don’t blame teachers in front of your children after giving a bribe to the teachers. Your children will learn.
Teachers’ Day is the day you go to see the teacher you respect. Your children should take care of their own teachers in their ways, such as writing a letter to express their appreciation or making a carnation…

But the bad reputation of Teachers’ Day depresses hardworking teachers. Youngjinjjang shared her sister’s story.

제동생은 초등교사3년차입니다…
아이들과 함께 생활하는게 너무나 즐겁고 재미있다는군요….자기는 선생님 되길 너무도 잘한것 같다고 항상 입에 달고 다니던 애입니다…
그런데 오늘따라 힘이 하나도 없고 기분도 별로 안좋아 보이더군요 그래서 무슨일 있었냐고 물어봤더니…..내일 스승의 날인데 너무 우울하다는 군요…..
이유인즉슨….학교에서 애들한테 공문을 통해 선물이고 뭐고 못하게 했다는군요..그리고 편지 2통 받았다고하더군요…..신문이고 티비고 사람들이고 선생님을 왜 그렇게 나쁘게만 매도하는지 왜 스승의날 같은걸 만들어서 사람을 이렇게 비참하고 힘든 기분이 들게 하는지………갑자기 보람이라는게 뭔가 하는 생각이 든다고 하더군요….열심히 해도 알아주는 이 하나 없다는군요..알아주길 바라지도 않는다는군요….하지만 교사들 자체를 우습게 보고 사회악보듯이 하는 요즘 세태가 너무 가슴아프고 힘이 빠진다고 하는군요…..스승의날 노래 배우자고 하니까 그런거 뭐하러 배워요 한답니다…..선물하지말고 정하고 싶으면 편지만 쓰라고 하니까 애들하는말이…오~~편지봉투~~봉투? 봉투? ㅋㅋ 이런다고 합니다.

My younger sister has been working as a primary teacher for three years. She is satisfied with her job and enjoys her life with her students. She always talks about what a good decision she made.
But today she seemed to lose all her energy and not to feel good either. I asked why and she said Teachers’ Day makes her depressed.
The reason is… the teacher had to send a letter to students not to bring gifts for Teachers’ Day…and received two letters from students in the end. She felt doleful because media and people all denounce teachers and she even wondered why someone made such a kind of a special day. Nobody knows how hard she works, she said. Even teachers are looked down on or even regarded as the evil of society. When she tried to teach the song of Teachers’ Day, her students asked why they had to learn such a kind of song. And when she told the students they should not bring the gifts, and that letters from their hearts are enough for her, the kids made fun of her, ‘oh~~envelope with a letter~~envelope (money inside)?’

A blogger, My daily Life, wants to have a teacher he would like to see and say thanks,

가끔 주위에 보면 스승의 날이라고 고등학교때 스승님을 찾아뵙고, 맛있는거 얻어 먹고 그러던데 나는 스승의 날이어도 찾아 뵙고 싶은 스승님이 없다…이제 나에게 학교 교육이라는것을 받을 수 있는 시간은 대학 2년하고 1학기 이다…이제 남은 2년이란 기간동안 내 기억에 남을 만한 전공 교수님을 한분이라도 만나고 싶다. 그럼 스승의 날 음료수 한병 사 들고 찾아 뵐 스승님이 계신거니까.

Sometimes when I look around, I can see some people go seeing their high school teachers. But I don’t have any teacher I would like to go see. I have two and half years left to spend my life at school. I would like to find at least one teacher who will be in my mind. That means I will have a teacher I can go see with a box of drinks every Teachers’ Day.

On the other hand, not a few bloggers like Yousun introduce good gifts for Teachers’ Day.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site