Teacher’s suicide sparks nationwide protests in South Korea.
Yoon Suk Yeol has ordered officials to listen.
South Korean teachers’ union was not involved in these demonstration.
Approximately 50,000 South Korean teachers gathered in Seoul on Monday to demand better protection of their rights and raise awareness following the tragic suicide of a young teacher who had been harassed by a student’s parents.
Public school teachers have been increasingly vocal about mistreatment from both parents and students, including false accusations of child abuse when they discipline students.
Some protest banners read, “To inquire is to mourn,” and the demonstration remained peaceful.
One participating teacher, who wished to remain anonymous and used the surname Lee, expressed frustration with inadequate legal measures and passive government responses in safeguarding teachers against these issues. She also mentioned the burden of heavy workloads and excessive complaints from students and parents.
Over the past six years until June, around 100 public school teachers in South Korea have taken their own lives, with 57 of them teaching at elementary schools, according to government data.
President Yoon Suk Yeol has ordered officials to listen to the teachers’ demands and take action to protect their rights.
In response to the protest, many teachers pledged to take leave as government and school board officials worked to prevent significant disruptions to classes and promised legal measures to enhance teacher protection.
Aside from the Seoul demonstration, an estimated 60,000 to 70,000 teachers held rallies in other locations.
Authorities warned that collective actions by teachers to disrupt classes would be illegal and could result in disciplinary actions.
Notably, the South Korean teachers’ union was not involved in these demonstrations, as they were organized by the group “Everyone Together As One,” which aims to protect and support teachers.
In July, an elementary school teacher was found dead at school after expressing anxiety over parental complaints related to a dispute among students.
These incidents have prompted nationwide vigils and protests by teachers, culminating in a large rally near the National Assembly in Seoul, which reportedly drew up to 200,000 teachers.
South Korea has the highest suicide rate among developed countries, with over 20 suicides per 100,000 people, according to data from the World Health Organization and OECD.
The education ministry has pledged to prevent teachers from being punished for legitimate educational activities and improve communication between teachers and parents.
In a statement, the ministry acknowledged the rise in indiscriminate child abuse reports and expressed its commitment to supporting teachers so they can focus on education without undue concerns about baseless child abuse complaints. They have also set up a task force to strengthen legal measures and protect teachers’ rights, such as limiting telephone calls from parents on their personal phones, although no specific timeframe has been provided.