Thousands of South Korean teachers and school staff protested in Seoul on Saturday to demand more legal protection against bullying by parents, a growing problem in a country known for its brutally competitive school environments.
The weekend demonstrations in the capital followed the death of a teacher who was found dead at her primary school in July after reportedly expressing emotional distress caused by complaints from allegedly abusive parents.
Police reportedly estimated that around 20,000 people attended Saturday’s demonstration.
The protesting teachers, who have been demonstrating for weeks, say current laws make it difficult to control their classrooms and leave them at the mercy of authoritarian parents who could easily accuse them of emotionally abusing children.
South Korean lawmakers are currently debating bills that would meet some of the demands for immunity on the part of teachers from accusations of child abuse. But some experts have expressed concern about the possible changes, noting that the proposals could further weaken protections for children, who work hard for years in hyper-competitive environments.
In South Korea, graduating from elite universities is considered crucial for career and marriage prospects.
According to data from the Ministry of Education and the National Health Insurance Service provided to liberal opposition lawmaker Kim Woni last week, more than 820 primary, middle and high school students died by suicide between 2018 and 2022.
Dressed in black, thousands of teachers and school staff occupied a street near the National Assembly, chanting slogans and holding signs that read: “Give teachers immunity from allegations of child emotional abuse.” Protesters said more than 9,000 teachers have been reported by parents for child abuse in the last eight years.