Desperate Measures

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South Korean teachers staged a mass walkout Monday to protest widespread harassment they face in their jobs from parents and unruly students, which has led to some educators taking their own lives as a result of the bullying and pressure they suffer, the Guardian reported.

Around 15,000 teachers dressed in black marched outside the country’s parliament in the capital Seoul. Demonstrations also took place in other cities and some schools were temporarily closed.

Protesters demanded better rights and protection for themselves amid growing outrage about teaching staff being mistreated, including being accused of child abuse for disciplining students.

South Korean authorities warned that the protests were illegal and threatened repercussions.

In recent weeks, South Korean educators have been holding such protests following the death of a 23-year-old elementary school teacher in July. The young woman was found dead in an apparent suicide after reportedly expressing anxiety over complaints from abusive parents.

Monday’s protests marked the 49th day since the teacher’s death, an important day in funeral rites according to many Buddhist traditions. Even so, recent reports of apparent teacher suicides have further angered the country’s educators.

Government data has shown that around 100 schoolteachers died by suicide in South Korea between 2018 and June 2023.

Amid the outrage, the education ministry has vowed to enforce educational authority and pass legislation to ensure “legitimate educational activities are distinguished from child abuse crimes.”

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