South Korea educators call for legal reforms, expansion of teachers’ rights amid rising suicide rate

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On Monday, Seoul witnessed a gathering of 50,000 educators demanding the protection of their rights and advocating for lawful regulation concerning overbearing parents. Related to this protest, the country has seen a rise in educators succumbing to suicide due to excessive pressure.

The issue of excessive parental intrusion and demands has gained significant prominence following the tragic suicide of a young teacher in July. Official statistics from South Korea reveal that over the past six years, approximately a hundred public school teachers have taken their own lives, with half of them teaching in elementary schools.

The South Korean government has been striving to demonstrate future legal oversight for this issue. For instance, the country’s president, through their office, urged officials to address this problem. Government representatives have also attempted to preemptively quell the uproar by promising legal measures to address this concern.

The Ministry of Education has not remained passive in this regard and has committed to establishing legal frameworks while also preventing the possibility of punishing teachers for minor matters, for which they are currently penalized. The Ministry has formed a working group to develop such a framework, although specific timelines have yet to be announced.

School-based threats and bullying represent a prevalent issue within the educational sphere. In February of this year, the South Korean government announced a significant policy shift, stipulating that admissions applications to higher education institutions must now include disclosures regarding instances of bullying. This development has, in turn, intensified the pressure on educators as parents demand the expungement of their children’s transgressions from academic records.

As the protests commenced, South Korean authorities officially cautioned educators about the legal consequences and disciplinary actions that would be imposed on protesters, with the highest possible penalties including criminal charges. Two days prior to this demonstration, approximately 200,000 teachers gathered near the National Assembly building in Seoul, demanding more stringent legal instruments to safeguard their human rights.

According to the World Health Organization, South Korea exhibits one of the highest suicide rates among developed nations, with more than 20 individuals per 100,000 people taking their own lives.