Close

Support Global Voices

To stay independent, free, and sustainable, our community needs the help of friends and readers like you.

Donate now »

See all those languages up there? We translate Global Voices stories to make the world's citizen media available to everyone.

Learn more about Lingua Translation  »

Korea: Is teachers’ physical punishment toward students a crime?

A second grade student at a primary school was struck 27 times by her teacher because she gave the wrong answer to a math question. After her mother put a photo of her daughter’s bottom with bruises on the internet, parents’ associations and other netizens criticized the teacher’s behavior. In the end, the district education office gave her 3 month probation period disregarding the first decision that her qualification as a teacher was taken.
126
This scandal has become a hot argument on the Internet. Teachers’ whipping has traditionally been regarded as ‘sarang ui mae’ (whipping of love) – teacher’s love and careness toward his or her students. However, there are more people who don’t agree with the traditional thought anymore.

Here is a teacher’s writing. He or she argues that physical punishment is from teachers’ love toward their students. Irresponsible or lazy teachers who aren’t concerned with their students’ futures even don’t have passion to put their energy into their students. He or she also emphasizes that it shouldn’t be judged with different values.

교육 현장에서 체벌이 반드시 필요하다는 말은 하지 않겠습니다. 저 역시도 체벌을 긍정적으로 보지는 않습니다. 교육학에대해서 공부한 사람들은 알겠지만 교육에서의 육체적 체벌을 긍정적으로 본 교육학자들은 없습니다.하지만 여기서 주의해야할 부분은 외국의 예를 들어 우리나라 학교에서의 체벌을 두고 아동학대 운운하는 것은 매우 위험한 발상입니다. 서양인들이 지닌 관점을 기준으로 우리의 교육 현장을 봐서는 안되기 때문입니다. 체벌이 없는 유럽의 국가들과 미국 등  많은 선진국들의 시스템을 먼저 보면, 한국 학교와는 달리 매우 엄격한 룰을 적용하고 있습니다. 학생들의 비행이나 수업준비 태만, 지각, 과제 미제출 등 학생들이 범하게되는 잘못에 대해서 학칙을 적용해서 학생들을 처벌하는 통제 시스템을 가지고 있습니다. 올해부터 우리 나라 학교에도 적용되는 그린마일리지 시스템이 이러한 외국의 제도를 도입한 유사한 사례가 될 것입니다. 결과적으로 학생들은 유급, 휴학, 징계 등 다양한 처벌을 받게 되고, 고등학교를 졸업하지 못하는 학생들도  우리나라에 비해 현저히 높습니다. 프랑스에서는 약 30% 정도의 고등학생들이 졸업을 하지 못하고 대학 진학도 못하고, 또한 취업을 못해 거리를 배회하는 학생들로 만들고 있습니다. 이게 외국의 엄격한 규정을 적용하는 시스템에서 발생할 수 있는 문제입니다. 반면에 한국도 학생선도규정 등은 모두 있지만 이를 엄격하게 적용해서 학생을 징계처리하는 경우는 흔하지 않습니다. 고등학교 학생들이 가장 흔하게 범하는 비행중에 하나인 흡연을 예를 들어보겠습니다. 한 학생이 흡연에 적발되었습니다. 바로 징계받습니까? 학교에 따라 바로 징계를 받을 수도 있겠죠? 그럼 2번, 3번, 4번… 계속해서 흡연에 적발되었습니다. 학교규정에는 상습적인 흡연은 퇴학까지 가능하다고 되어있습니다. 하지만 퇴학당하나요? 아닙니다. 그런데 외국은 같은 규정에서 적발이 되었다면 퇴학을 받는 경우가 한국보다는 높습니다. 선생님 앞에서 욕하고 말대꾸하면서 대드는 행위…. 종종 발생합니다. 아마 웬만한 고등학교에서 1년에 약 3회 정도는 발생하지 않나 싶습니다. 비슷한 정도로 학생들이 교사지도에 불응하고 대드는 행위를 했을 때 외국에서는 가차없이 학생에게 가혹한 징계를 내립니다. 하지만 한국에서는 보통 이런식으로 지도하죠. 그 선생님에게 찾아가서 무릎꿇고 잘못했다고 용서를 빌어라. 또 그러면 그런대로 넘어가는 경우가 대부분입니다. 그런 상황에서 선생님들이 용서못한다 무조건 징계내려야 한다. 그렇게 끝까지 고집피우는 선생님은 제가 알기로는 없습니다.

I am not saying that physical punishment is necessary at schools. I also don’t see it as positive either. However, one thing that we should be careful about is that it is dangerous to call physical punishment that happens in our schools child harrassment under other countries’ cases. We shouldn’t look at our school cases with Westerners’ perspectives. If we look at other European countries and the U.S.A. where they don’t have physical punishment, those countries have different regulations at schools. Regarding students’ mistakes, such as negligence of class preparation, tardiness, and not-submitting homework, those schools apply school regulations to punish their behavior. From this year, Korean schools also apply the Green Miliage System that those schools abroad use as a regulation. Students receive various punishments, such as being forced to stay in the same class, temporary absence from school and disciplinary punishment. Therefore, the ratio of students who couldn’t graduate high school is much higher in those countries. In France, about 30 percent of high school students can’t graduate and can’t go to college therefore. This could be our problem after using the strict regulations like other countries. On the other hand, Korea also has guiding regulations for students. But we don’t apply them strictly and give disciplinary actions to the students. Let’s have an example of smoking that high school students commit delinquency the most. A student was disclosed while smoking. Is the student going to be punished right away? It could be different depending on each school. After that, the student could be disclosed more; second, third, and fourth time. According to the school regulations, habitual smoking could lead expulsion from school. But do we? The student is not going to be withdrawn. According to school regulations abroad, if this thing happens, there is a much higher ratio to be withdrawn. There is also a common case that students swear or talk back to teachers. If students disobey teachers and are against teachers’ instructions, schools in other countries give strict punishment to the students. But in Korea, if students ask forgiveness to teachers, it doesn’t lead to any other results. Teachers usually don’t give punishment.

우리나라의 공교육이 지닌 근본적인 훈육시스템이 외국과는 다르다고 봅니다. 또한 한국인들이 지닌 기본적인 정서 자체가 다릅니다. 일부 학부모들은 자신의 아이가 체벌을 당했다면 대놓고 전화해서 따지고 저항합니다. 하지만 아직도 대부분은 부모들은 네가 잘못해서 그런거다. 똑바로 해라 라고 하면서 속은 상하지만 아이에게 혼을 냅니다. 만약 학부모의 의식이 완전히 변해서 그 수치가 뒤바뀌는 날이 온다면 우리 나라 교육에서 체벌은 없어지겠죠. 그리고 학생들을 통제하기 위한 수단으로서 외국처럼 엄격한 학칙을 적용하겠죠.  한국 교육에서의 체벌을 인간적인 행위로 간주할 수는 없습니다. 하지만 그 체벌이 무조건적으로 없어야 하고 아동 학대다, 범죄다라고 규정한다면, 근본적으로 우리나라 교육시스템이 변하고 교사들과 학생 학부모의 의식이 모두 바뀌어야 합니다. 개인적인 생각으로 그렇게 되기를 바라지는 않습니다. 한국사람들이 지닌 가치관과 의식의 문제인데…. 무조건 외국 사람들이 지닌 대로 가는 것이 바람직하지는 않습니다.   

한국사람들이 가지고 있는 행동의 기대치와 가치관이 서양인들과는 다른데… 그러한 관점에서 체벌하는 것이 아동학대다? 그러면 그사람은 한국에 살면 안됩니다. 외국에 가서 자신과 비슷한 가치관과 사고방식을 지닌 외국인들 사이에서 섞여 살아야죠. 국민들의 의식과 문화적 차이 그리고 교육적 시스템을 망각하고 무조건적으로 서양인들의 관점으로 한국교육 특히 체벌문제를 규정하는 것은 매우 위험한 발상이 아닐까요?

Fundamental discipline systems of our public education are different from other countries. In addition, the basic sentiment of Koreans is different. Some parents call the school and protest when they know their children to be physically punished. But most parents reprimand their children instead of criticizing teachers even though they’re not so happy about teachers’ instructions.The more parents are not happy about the school discipline system, the physical punishment from the school will disappear. Then the school will make stricter school regulations like other countries. Of course, physical punishment of Korean education should not be regarded humane. However, saying that the physical punishment should disappear and it is children harrassment or a crime, teachers’ and parents’ thoughts as well as education systems should all change. In my own opinion, I hope that it doesn’t happen. I don’t think that following foreign styles is always right.

Values that Koreans have and westerners have are different…. physical punishment is all children harrassment? Then those people shouldn’t live in Korea. Go to other countries and live with foreigners who have similar values and thoughts. Disregarding cultural differences and education systems, acknowledging education values, especially about physical punishment, with westerners’ perspectives is very dangerous.

마지막으로 좀더 현실적인 문제로 다시 접근하면, 요즘 선생님들 아이들 무자비하게 체벌하지 않습니다. 학교 자체적으로 체벌용도로 사용할 수 있는 회초리를 규정한 학교도 많고, 매의 횟수도 정하고 있는 학교가 많습니다. 그리고 교육청에서 체벌금지 관련한 공문이 자주 내려오고 있습니다. 학생들도 이젠 예전처럼 순진하지 않아서 교사가 감정을 갖고 폭력수준으로 체벌을 하면 동영상으로 찍거나 교육청에 글 남기고, 심지어는 경찰서에 고소까지 합니다. 교사들도 물론 그런거 다 알고 있지요. 그래서 선생님들이 자신 몸 사려가면서 체벌하지 않고, 말로 벌주고 심하면 학생부에 징계요구하고 뭐 그런상황입니다. 오히려 그런 상황을 알면서 학생들이 심각한 잘못(학교 기물파손, 주 및 흡연, 학교폭력, 금품갈취 등)을 했을 때 심할 정도로 때리고, 타이르면서 가르칠 부분은 가르치려고 노력하는 사람이 더 자질있는 교사가 될 수도 있는겁니다. 때리지 않고 규정에 따라 징계하고 결과적으로 징계 이외에는 학생들에게 가르침이 전혀 없는 것은 솔직히 교사하면 안되는겁니다. 까놓고 말하면 그렇게 하면 교사도 편합니다. 자기 자식도 학교 보내는 입장에서 학생들 때리면서 맘 편하지 않습니다. 결론은 체벌 좋지는 않은데, 이를 심하게 사회 악으로 규정하는 것은 한국인들의 의식과 교육시스템을 전혀 염두하지 않은 잘못된 시각이라는 것을 말하고 싶을 뿐입니다.

In the end, talking in a more realistic way, teachers don’t cruelly punish children recently. Some schools use limited kinds of equipments for physical punishment and limit the number of times of whipping. In addition, education offices send official letters to schools about not whipping students. Students are not naive anymore. If teachers physically punish them without fairness, they record it, send complaints to education offices, or even report to the police. Teachers also know about it. So, teachers rather request discipline fortheir students from the discipline department. Even though teachers know about current situations, some of them physically punish the students due to serious mistakes (destroying school equipments, drinking, smoking, physical fighting, and robbering). I think that those teachers are more qualified. Teachers who follow the regulations and don’t try to teach anything to those problematic students don’t have qualities. Honestly speaking, that is much easier. Those teachers also have their own children and send them to schools. It’s not an easy job for them to give physical punishment. In conclusion, physical punishment is not good, but regulating it as social evil is a wrong perspective that doesn’t consider Koreans’ thoughts and education systems.

 

Another teacher is writing against the previous one.

체벌 없이도 정상적인 수업과 지도가 가능하며 교육현장에서 쓰이는  다양한 방법의 문제행동 제제 방법이 오히려 체벌보다 더 효과가 있습니다. 문제가 되는 학생에게 맨 처음주는 가벼운 제제는 ‘Time Out’ 데 이는 수업에 집중을 하지않고 주의가 산만하거나 수업의 진행에 방해가되는 행동을 하는 아동에게 내리는 벌로서 의자를 따로 교실의 벽면이나 다른 학생들과 간격이 떨어진 곳에 두고 홀로 앉아서 수업을 참관하게 하는 벌입니다.격리되는 상황에 아이들이 수치를 느겨 문제 행동이 진정되는 효과가 있습니다. 이 타임 아웃은 그러나 한번에 5 -10분 이상  더 길게 하지 않는것을 원칙으로 하고 있습니다. 그 이후에도  같은 수업중 여전히 문제  행동이 두번 이상 나타나면 이번에는 의자를 돌려 뒤를 보이고 앉아있게 합니다. 체벌은 물론 언어적인 폭력, 심지어 선생님이 학생에게 ‘말썽꾸러기'라는 의미의 ‘naughty’ 라는 말도 사용하지 못하게 되어 있습니다.

Controlling problematic behavior at schools without physical punishment is more effective. Students who have problems can have light control, such as ‘Time Out.’ It is the punishment to students who don’t pay attention in class and are easily distracted. Those students can sit separately from other students at the classroom. When children are isolated, they feel ashamed and stop problematic behaviors. This Time Out shouldn’t be more than 5-10 minutes. After that, if those students continue the same behaviors more than two times, teachers let those students sit toward the backside. Physical punishment, verbal violence, and even using words, such as ‘naughty,’ are stircitly prohibited.

외국에서 맨 처음 직업을 가진 유치원에서부터도  아이들을 한 인격체로 대우하며 아이들끼리도 상대방이 싫어하면 다른 친구에게 손으로 신체에 접촉하는 것도 엄하게 금합니다.상대에 대한 의사존중의 예의를 어려서부터 세뇌가 될 정도로 익히며 자라납니다. 어려서부터 공부보다는 질서교육 ,이를테면 실내에서 뛰거나 큰 소리 내지않기,반드시 자리를 뜨기전 자신이 보던 책이나 놀이기구 치우기,밖에서 놀다 들어모면 신발에 묻은 모래나 흙등을  털고 실내화로 갈아신기등을 화 한번 안내고 꾸준히 하루에도 50번도 더 넘게 조용히 그러나 엄격하게 주의주는 동료 선생님의 태도에 속으로 득도한 수도자가 아닌가하고 감탄했었습니다.하지만 오래 지나니 내 자신도 어느새 그렇게 닮아있는 것을 발견하게 되었지요.

When I worked at a kindergarten in other country, they even treat children as a man of character and teach if some students don’t like to be physically touched, other students shouldn’t do. Respecting others with manners is the basic one they learn since childhood. Rather than studying, teachers focus on discipline, such as not running in the hall, not making big noise, tidying up books and toys that they played, and taking dirt off from shoes they wear outside inside. They teach the same things more than 50 times per day without any anger or frustration. I was impressed to look at other teachers and my colleagues. I even felt that they’re the ones who attain spiritual awakening. But being with them together for a while, I also became one of them.

[…]외국에서는 사소한 폭력도 거의 준 범죄처럼 엄격한 잣대로 처음부터 대처하고,학생들간의 가벼운 싸움도 반드시 부모에게 통보가 가고 학교에서 그에 대한 처벌의 수위를 결정하기 위해 담임교사,학과장,그리고 학부모가 함께한 면담회를  교감 선생님 주관 하에   일차 가지고, 그다음 결정을 위한 선생님들만의 사정회를 가집니다. 처음이거나 가벼운 경우에는 3일 ,1주,2주 등의 정학을 받거나 ,사례가 나쁜 경우는 다른 학교로의 전학이 권고됩니다. 퇴학은 학생의 장래를 위해 일반적으로 취하지 않습니다. 이상과 같은 방법으로도 교실내에서  교사와 다른 수업을 듣는 학생들에게 피해가 되는 행동이 금지되며 국민학교 교실에서조차도  꽤 엄격한 수업이 진행됩니다.[…] 교육 목적에 부합한 선생님의 언어와 태도도 가르치는 교과 내용보다 더 중요하다고 생각하며  문제 행동을 하는 교사의 태도가 알려지면 경중에 따라 교사의 자격이 박탈되기도 합니다.

[…] In other countries, mere violence is also regarded as a serious crime and is treated under strict regulations. Even a light fight between students is also notified to parents and their school decides the kind of punishment depending on how serious it is. In order to decide this, the home room teacher, HOD, and parents have a meeting together with the principal. And then, there is another meeting between teachers. If it is the first time and not so serious, the school will give three days or one or two weeks suspension from school. If the case is serious, the school recommends the students to transfer to other schools. Withdrawal from the school is not recommended for the students’ future. With these methods, behaviors or attitudes that disturb other students or teachers in the class are prohibited. Primary schools are same as well.[…] Appropriate languages and attitudes that teachers have are more significant than contents of textbooks and if there are some problematic teachers’ attitudes, the teachers can lose their qualifications depending on how serious it is.

More arguments. 1:

교사체벌은 이제 범죄행위로 간주되어야 합니다.
아직도 많은 분들이 교사의 체벌은 간혹 필요하다고 하는데…이러한 주장은 가장 무서운 주장입니다. 그리고 교육의 변화를거부하는 빌미를 제공하는 것이지요. 교육의 가장 중요한 지향점은 올바른 인간입니다. 그 바른 인간을 기르기 위해 체벌을 사용한다? 결국 그것은 폭력을 가르키는 것입니다. 체벌과 폭력은 구분이 되지 않을뿐더러 체벌을 하는 행위는 범죄행위로 간주되어야 합니다.
 
UN의 아동권리협약의 통계를 보면 학교나 가정에서 조차 법적으로 체벌이 금지된 나라는 16개국입니다.  그리고 대부분의 나라 140여개국이 학교에서 체벌이 공식적으로 혹은 법적으로 금지되어 있습니다. 다만 일본과 중국 등 아시아의 선진 주도국을 제외한 상당수 아시아 국가가 아직도 체벌을 공식 인정하고 있는데, 이들 나라는 아동학대국의 오명을  지니고 있습니다. […] “사랑의 매” 그것 역시 강자 혹은 어른의 체벌을 정당화 하기 위한 논리입니다. 사랑의 매는 세상에 없습니다. 변태가 아니라면 아픔을 느끼고 수치스럼움을 느껴야 합니다. 내가 삐뚤게 나갈때 선생님이 체벌을 하여 지금의 내가 있었다고 말하는 사람도 있던데… 그것은 교사의 보살핌과 관심때문에 지금이 있는 것이지 체벌때문은 아닌것 입니다. 

이것 역시 강자의 체벌론 그리고 강자의 힘의 논리에 세뇌되어 혼동이 발생한 것이지요. 폭력은 안되지만 아이들 통제를 위하여 체벌이 필요하다는 논리 역시 끊임없이 체벌권의 정당성을 조금이나마  지키기 위한 마지막 발악입니다.  세상 어디에도 사람을 때려도 괜찮다고 하는 것은 잘못된 것입니다. 사람을 가볍게 때려도 법적인 심판을 받아야 합니다. 그것이 정의입니다. 그리고 그것이 교육입니다. 잘못했다고 교사가 학생을 때리는 것은 범죄행위로 간주되는 것이 바로 교육입니다.[…]

Physical punishment from teachers should be regarded as a crime.

Many people still think that physical punishment from teachers is sometimes necessary…. it is scary. They just don’t want changes of education. The most important part of education is to let students build up upright personalities. In order to raise upright humans, we need physical punishment? In conclusion, it is just teaching violence. Physical punishment and violence are not different and both of them should be regarded as crimes.

According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the UN, there are 16 countries that legally prohibit physical punishment at schools and at homes. Most 140 countries legally prohibit physical punishment at schools. Except Japan and China, most Asian countries still acknowledge physical punishment and could be regarded as countries having children harrassment.[…] “Whipping for Love” This is an excuse that the strong and adults try to justify physical punishment. There is no whipping for love in this world. If you are not a pervert, anyone feels pains and shame. There are some people who are fine now because there was whipping for love from teachers when they were disobeying at schools. You are manipulated by the powerful’s logic. Violence shouldn’t be allowed, but the saying that physical punishment in order to control children is necessary is also a pathetic atrocity in order to justify their behavior. Anywhere, beating others up is wrong. Even though you lightly beat others up, it should be judged legally. It is justice. And it is education. The fact that teachers beat students up because those students did some mistakes should be regarded as a crime. That is education.[…]

2:

[…] 체벌이 옳다는 게 아니라 대안없는 반대는 그야말론 이상론, 산속에서 혼자하는 웅변에 지나지 않습니다.
오히려 세부 시행기준있는 체벌을 규정으로 딱 정해 두는게 이상과 교육현실의 갭을 줄이는데 도움이 되지 않을까요?

[…] I am not saying physical punishment is right. However, objections without any alternatives are little more than idealism. It’s like you’re talking loudly alone in the middle of mountains. Wouldn’t it be better to make regulations that have methods and detailed instructions of physical punishment and therefore can lessen the gap between ideal and reality of education?

3:

‘교사체벌 = 범죄행위’ 라고 말하는 이들을 보면 그 사람의 뇌 구조 및 정신 상태를 한번 검사해 보고 싶다는 생각이 든다. 만일 본인이 부모가 되었을때 자신의 자녀의 잘못된 행위를 개선하기 위한 수단으로 100% 구두로 된다고 가능한지 한번 묻고 싶다. 물론 선생이든 부모이든 자녀에게 체벌을 하는 것을 좋아하는 이는 없을 것이다. 하지만 단계적인 개선이 되지 않을 경우에는 그러한 마지막 수단이 바로 ‘체벌'이다.[…]

When I see people who say ‘physical punishment from teachers = crime,’ I would like to examine their brains and mental status. I would like to ask when they become parents, whether they can improve their childrens’ delinquencies with words. Of course, any teachers or parents don’t like physically punish their children. However, if there are no improvements, the final instrument is ‘physical punishment.’[…]

3 comments

  • […] the education system that we are employed by, which is overly and needlessly competitive and so backwards and arcane so as to be be more like the 18th century than the […]

  • 영어 선생님

    I teach at a Korean school. To be sure, all is not perfect. I have seen a few incidents of physical abuse by teachers, have heard about incidents at other schools, and have perhaps on a few occasions been a bit too rough with students myself. The Korean educational system does not do enough to teach critical thinking skills, and stresses quantity of education over quality. Often the demands on students’ time and expectations of them are unrealistic and unreasonable. To be sure, the case of the elementary school teacher severely beating the seven-year-old for failing to answer correctly (though I suspect there was much more to it than that) is completely unacceptable; it would be wrong to beat a little girl like that for any reason whatsoever.

    That said, at most Korean schools there is much more positive than negative to be said about student discipline. There is much more positive than negative to be said about the level of effort, care, and concern that most Korean teachers demonstrate. There is much more positive than negative to be said about the attitude of most Korean students. And much of this comes down to the fact that at most Korean schools there is a clear understanding that respect for one’s teachers, school, and studies is at the heart of education.

    I find it somewhat surprising that westerners who come from countries where keeping drugs and weapons out of schools is a paramount issue would make such a big deal out of naughty children getting a slap or two for doing something they know they shouldn’t or neglecting to do something they know they should. I find it odd that people from countries whose schools have lengthy disciplinary policies about fighting would be so quick to condemn schools that don’t even require policies about fighting because serious violence between students is so rare. And I find it odd that people would condemn homeroom teachers, who could expect a call 24/7 if their students got into trouble outside school, as being ‘lazy’ in their methods of discipline when they have accepted responsibility for the well being of 20, 30, or 40-plus kids round the clock.

    It is very difficult to explain the full meaning of Korean words such as 우리, 우리 학교, 선생님, 담임 선생님, 고등 학생, etc., in English because while they can all be easily translated, they convey very different understandings from their English equivalents used in English-speaking contexts. In America, being a high school student denotes what one does for part of the day, five days a week, for perhaps for perhaps 35 or 36 weeks of the year. In Korea being a high school student signifies who one fundamentally is during what many would consider to be the three most important years of one’s life. This creates a very different context at schools and very different atmosphere between students and teachers when it comes to behavioural expectations. Yes, failure to meet such expectations may indeed result in corporal punishment, especially if it’s a deliberate failure, and believe it or not most parents and in fact most students are all right with this.

    Of course, one could make many criticisms of Koreans’ understanding of education, some of which would no doubt have their validity. However, until you can show me a country that achieves a much better level of academic success and student discipline yet still manages to graduate 97% of its students, I’m very sceptical of abandoning the Korean educational model in favour of another country’s. Every western country I’ve visited or read about still has a long way to go before it’s in a position to point out the speck in Korea’s eye in this regard.

  • Paul Robertson

    I’m a high school teacher in Canada. I taught in Korea for a while also, and I think I have a reasonably good understanding of both concepts of education. The major difference is that the gap between the parent’s role and the teacher’s role is much vaster in Canada than in Korea. In Korea, many things that you would think are more the parent’s responsibility lie with the teacher. In Canada, discipline isn’t really my concern at all. If there is a discipline problem, I report it to the vice-principle and he deals with it. There are various punishments in place such as detentions, washing cafeteria tables, losing free time during the week and the most serious being suspension (being sent home for a number of days.) To be sure parents quite frequently reinforce the school’s concerns by further punishing their children at home. This is done by either yelling, a talk, loss of privileges, being grounded, or physical punishment like hitting. The point is that regardless of the exact legality of hitting, it does certainly happen here. In some informal polls done in our family studies classes, virtually all the students responded that they had been spanked or hit by their parents. So, I don’t see why some in Korea are so concerned to ban teachers’ use of physical punishment, since in the West it is also used a lot. Believe it or not, the paddle is used in schools in about half of the American states! Also, I’d like to point out that the kind of physical punishment typical in Korea is quite mild: a few taps on the hand, leg or whatever, that sting of a few seconds. The extreme cases are not everyday occurrences. When I did martial arts in Korea, I got some physical punishment (getting hit with a stick) as part and parcel of the training, and it was of short duration and not all that bad. Comparing this quick thing with the kind of protracted spankings etc I got a few times from my parents as a child is like comparing a grape to a watermelon. In terms of who ends up dishing out the more severe kinds of discipline, Korea and Canada (/the West) are different in that the teachers often do it in Korea whereas the parents do it in Canada. In terms of the kinds of punishments and school routines that go on, things aren’t really all that different at all. The major differences lie in the kinds of activities the students do to learn. In Canada the emphasis is on projects or “authentic tasks.” In Korea, the emphasis is on quizzes and mid term and final exams. Every Korean student in Canada I have met, and some Korean parents living here who I have talked with say that they find Canadian education much harder than Korean education, because of “all the assignments they have to do.” (I get the same comment from almost everyone.)
    Now, let me point out how I see parenting styles as different in Canada and Korea. In Canada, the parents seem to spend much more time with their children, leading to their relationship with their children being very authoritarian and involved. In Korea, it seems that parents are often busy working until late at night and the children are often at school long hours and go to hakwons after school is over. As young children, it appears that Korean parents do not try to control their children’s behaviour very much and let them “run wild” whereas in Canada, the parents seem to be constantly trying to control their children’s behaviour. Korean parents seem to want a very friendly relationship with their kids whereas Canadian parents often are much more domineering and strict. In Korea, I got the sense that parents expect the teachers to play the role of what in Canada we would see as more the role of a parent, not just in a theoretical way, but in a very real way. I think that if Koreans started to apply Western “no touch” etc rules in their schools that basic concepts of family life would have to change, and I don’t think a lot of students or parents would like this. Real discipline would be put into the hands of the parents, making the relationship between parents and their children more antagonistic than it is typically now. Most parents and students seem pretty happy with the way things are done there now, so besides some extreme cases, there isn’t much of a problem. Punishment is unfortunately a necessity in civilized societies. There is a lot of physical punishment of children in the West too, just it’s done by parents rather than teachers.
    Here is a page about corporal punishment in modern Canada:
    http://www.corpun.com/cad00402.htm
    Notice that 64% of Canadians support corporal punishment! This is 2/3 people here. In our culture the parents do it, in Korean culture the teachers do it. In the end it’s all the same.

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • 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