In South Korea, as in most other countries, bullying remains a very big problem. Teenagers in particular tend to be some of the most rigidly conformist of all. I shudder to think of my own adolescence, partly because of the bullying I endured. It has taken years really to come to terms with it. In some respects, I still have work to do.
Recently, a law was enacted to make teachers accountable for not dealing with bullying in their classes. A teacher in Daejeon was arrested for negligence in the case of a young teenage girl who committed suicide rather than face the constant bullying she received at school.
As for my school, while I was never on the end of physical violence, I was on the receiving end of verbal abuse from classmates and others. Each day I went to school, I had a feeling of dread. Indeed, seeing my old high school up close still provokes feelings of nausea to this day. Quite honestly, I have no desire to attend my class reunions. Why would I want to see those people again? Of course, it probably would not have been better had I attended a city school.
As a teacher, I take a special interest in protecting those who may be vicitims of bullying. Fortunately, I have not had to confront it here. What I now have to confront is a class of teenage boys who smoke. It really makes me sad, as these are some of the nicest teenagers I’ve had as students. They don’t give me problems and are eager to speak in English. But they smoke.
At least they don’t do what the son of President Sarkozy of France did at the Palais d’Elysée, residence of the French president. While his father was away, he and some friends pelted a French policewoman with tomatoes and paper balls. President Sarkozy, who has three sons and a daughter from three different marriages, describes raising children as the “hardest thing in the world”. Indeed it is.