The Government of South Korea has decided to modify the legislation to invest more authority in teachers after a chain of suicides of teachers who had suffered some kind of harassment from parents and students. The trigger for the teachers' protests was the complaint by the family of a 23-year-old primary school teacher who committed suicide in July. The relatives demand that the death be recognized as work-related and allege that he died due to an excessive workload and complaints from parents of students.
The dead teacher taught first year classes at a primary school in Seochogu, south of Seoul. According to the complaint, she had been "verbally harassed" by the father of a student, who repeatedly accused her, with calls outside of work hours, of not preventing his son from being bullied. The teacher became "extremely fearful" of the complaints. The case is under police investigation.
The teacher's suicide has ignited protests by teachers, with several mass demonstrations and strikes since her death in July. Last week it was 49 days since the death, a date with special meaning for the Buddhist religion. The rallies, repeated throughout the country, reached the largest mobilization at the weekend in Seoul, with 200,000 demonstrators gathered by the movement Tots Junts Com Un, which promises "changes so that not one more teacher decides to take his own life." ".
Tens of thousands of teachers went on strike on Monday to demand legal protection that restores their authority over students and parents. The pickets paralyzed some schools under the slogan "A day to pause public education", despite the Government's warning of disciplinary measures.
Nevertheless, the Minister of Education, Lee Ju-ho, and deputy Yun Jae-ok, from the ruling People's Power Party, attended a tribute to the deceased. "I will take the necessary time to look back and see if I have ignored the voices of teachers who demand better protection of their rights", declared the minister.
The teachers are demanding that a clause in the Child Welfare Act be amended to allow teachers to apply discipline, such as expelling a student, without being exposed to allegations of child abuse by parents. Once a teacher is charged with child abuse, they cannot return to work until the charge is cleared and they are replaced by a substitute teacher.
President Yoon Suk Yeol has ordered the Executive to take the teachers' protests "very seriously" and to do everything possible to protect their rights. To this end, a working group of the Ministries of Education and Justice was organized on Sunday to improve the application of laws on the abuse of minors against teachers.
On the same day, the Ministry of Education blamed previous governments for "giving too much importance" to the rights of students over teachers, which led to "an increase in the number of indiscriminate reports of child abuse".
Two other South Korean teachers took their own lives over the weekend.