Monday, May 30, 2011

8 dead in what has been termed hazing revenge--Kim Dong Mi

Here is the excerpt and link

Published: June 20, 2005

SEOUL, South Korea, June 19 - A 22-year-old South Korean private who had been hazed by his superiors killed eight soldiers early Sunday morning at a guard post at the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea, inflicting the highest number of casualties on the South Korean Army since 2000.

The private, identified by the news media here as Kim Dong Min, tossed a hand grenade inside the barracks at the guard post in Yonchon, about 40 miles northeast of here, as 25 soldiers slept, according to the Defense Ministry. He also fired as many as 44 rounds, killing eight, including the post's commander, First Lt. Kim Jong Myeong.

Private Kim, who was arrested 10 minutes after the incident, had returned to the barracks after a patrol duty and became enraged when he saw the superior who had abused him, an army spokesman said at a news conference.

"Kim said that he committed the crime by accident, in a burst of anger, because of habitual harassment by his senior soldiers, who bullied and used verbal violence against him," said the spokesman, Brig. Gen. Chang Suk Gyu.

General Chang said the private, who had no history of mental instability, had not suffered from physical abuse.

The incident was likely to raise questions about how South Korea staffs and trains its 650,000-member armed forces. Because South Korea remains technically at war against North Korea, the demilitarized zone remains the most heavily fortified place on earth.

Private Kim had been serving his 24-month mandatory military service, standard for all South Korean men. Shortly after joining the army last December, he was deployed to the border unit.

Frontline assignments are considered the toughest, and troops are armed with grenades and live ammunition.

South Korean news media said the incident was similar to one in 1996, when a corporal killed three soldiers and wounded 10 at an army unit in Kangwon Province.

The South Korean military has long faced the problem of abuse by senior soldiers against lower-ranking ones. Hazing, while not considered as prevalent as before, is a legacy of South Korea's long era of military rule, which ended in the late 1980's.

A senior army officer said the army first began tackling the problem in the mid-1970's, after the Vietnam War, but focused on it especially with South Korea's democratization and growing awareness of human rights. Guidelines, he said, were handed down to officers, instructing them, "Do not use assault and battery as a means of discipline." A system of punishing offending officers was strengthened.

Besides physical abuse, higher-ranking soldiers psychologically and verbally harassed lower-ranking ones, the officer said. A typical form of abuse was to block a lower-ranking soldier from speaking.

President Roh Moo Hyun ordered the Defense Ministry to start an investigation into the incident. Defense Minister Yoon Kwang Ung apologized for the "shocking incident" at a news conference, bowing his head. He said follow-up measures would be taken to prevent a similar incident from occurring.

Relations with North Korea have significantly changed since South Korea began carrying out its so-called sunshine policy in 2000, with South Korean tourists and businessmen crossing the demilitarized zone every day at two entry points. But hundreds of thousands of soldiers are still stationed on both sides of the demilitarized zone, which remains heavily mined and restricted.

Yong In freshman, Kang Jang-ho, died of a cerebral hemorrhage.

Here is the link

March 27, 2008
Police arrested four college students
from Yong In University in Gyeonggi yesterday on suspicion that a hazing beating resulted in a fellow student’s death.
The arrests came 22 days after a Yong In freshman, Kang Jang-ho, died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Investigators indicted the four without physical detention after concluding that they were responsible for Kang’s death, police said.
In the middle of a Valentine’s Day judo training session for newcomers in the school gymnasium, Kang, a martial arts major, suddenly fell into a coma, school authorities announced. Kang died March 4. He was 19.
In the statement the university released following Kang’s death, school authorities said only that the student suddenly felt dizzy after finishing a backward rolling break-fall move in the training session, then collapsed on the mat.
As questions arose over the circumstances of Kang’s death, the Yongin Police Precinct, disregarding the college’s statement, began to investigate the incident.
According to Kang’s classmates, soft mats covered the gymnasium’s floor to prevent injury. Police also added that as a black belt, Kang had been familiar with break-falls.
In their investigation, police said they found that four of Kang’s older classmates beat him more than 20 times with an aluminum sword before the training session. Despite the serious bruises and scratches on his hips and thighs, Kang was forced to participate in the judo match.
“Classmates compelled the already injured freshman to participate in the training program,” said an officer on the case who declined to be named. “He was not in able condition to practice judo.”
Upon receiving reports that other freshmen received routine beatings, the police planned to expand their investigation.

Hazing and Graduation ceremonies in Korea

The following story was written by Kim Junghyun

SEOUL, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Images of naked teenagers, covered with flour and eggs and forming what looks like a human pyramid, do not exactly hark back to old memories of commencement ceremonies in South Korea which used to be dominated by tears and goodbyes.

But South Korean teenagers, whom some thought were best known as little study machines, managed this year to replace the old notion of graduation rituals with their grotesque behaviors, which in most cases even cast belated spotlight on the problem of school violence.


Scores of pictures depicting naked teenage girls and boys in the city of Goyang, Gyeonggi province, were recently posted online and quickly circulated the Web.

The pictures showed the teenagers, later confirmed to be all middle school graduates, taking off underwear, bending to cover their private parts, and making a human pyramid -- and high school students, clad in rain coats and wearing masks, seemingly in control of the outlandish situation.

All this came as a huge shock to many South Koreans, for whom a rather familiar scene of throwing flour and eggs at graduating students was already an extreme act, leading them to question why it had to happen.

But as if defying the public concerns, a series of similar hazing incidents followed throughout the country, including a group of half-naked male graduates marching the street in broad daylight in the southern port city of Busan, and female graduates dunked in the sea in torn uniforms in the city of Jeju.


What at first glance seemed like childish behaviors gone way overboard has now brought the issue of school violence into sharp focus, after Goyang students involved in the incident told the local police that they were forced to pose naked by high school students who graduated from the same school.

While the public attention has shifted to violence in school, some perpetrators of these incidents are showing no remorse over their behavior as they went through similar events in the past and consider them a rite of passage of their own.

Indeed, perpetrators of another similar incident in Seoul, where scores of teenagers threw ketchup at a female middle school graduate in a torn uniform, reportedly told the local police that the incident was an "annual tradition" of the school.

Police, meanwhile, has been prodded into more action, with the National Police Agency announcing a nationwide patrol from February through early March when graduation and entrance ceremonies usually take place.

Statistics show the number of school violence in South Korean elementary, middle and high schools rose to 8,813 in 2008 from 8, 444 cases a year ago, with physical assaults accounting for 70 percent of all reported cases.


Some experts here diagnosed the problem as an extreme form of collective defiance on the part of the teenagers, who are often forced into rote memorization and steep competition against one another for better grades in one of the most education-obsessed country in the world.

In a monolithic education system where the goal of entering a good college is the first and foremost priority, students are suffocated and are naturally attracted to "sadistic behaviors" as there is no outlet to let out their accumulated stress, they said.

The ideas of encouraging students to be actively involved in more extracurricular activities such as sports clubs, or having a unique way of celebrating graduation like American-style proms, have been floated.

While there are calls among public for stern punishment for the perpetrators, experts caution against prosecuting teenagers and attribute the problem to the malfunctioning education system in the country and traditional graduation ceremonies laden with boring speeches.

President Lee Myung-bak echoed the sentiment Wednesday, calling the problem a "cultural issue" and "a serious illness" the society suffers.

"They say police will handle the incidents, but this is something that students and schools should discuss together, not something to be approached as a (criminal) case," Lee told a meeting he presided over, according to the presidential office.

"We should approach the issue with our culture of education in mind," he added, urging the attendees to make efforts to " normalize" the culture of commencement ceremonies, the presidential office said.

Occasional hazing deaths at Korean schools

Here is one of the first to get my attention


Freshmen hazing appears to have claimed yet another life. A first-year college student attending an overnight retreat for new students -- known as an "orientation program" -- was found dead on March 8 in his room. Although the police have yet to determine the cause, fellow students have said that they drank until late. There were many empty beer bottles strewn about the room where he died.

In an earlier incident, a freshman died 20 days after he fell into a coma during this kind of initiation. A brain hemorrhage caused the coma, according to doctors. Although school officials said he got the brain injury during a physical training session, police determined that repeated beatings by upperclassmen led to his death.

Every year around this time, we hear of freshmen dying during "orientation" programs. Many of these deaths involve forced heavy drinking. In recent years, physical violence has been responsible for a number of deaths, as well. The deaths of these young students are a great loss and tragedy not only for the families, but our society, as well.

Hazing is not new. Nor is it a uniquely Korean problem. It's an old tradition that supposedly promotes group loyalty and camaraderie through shared suffering. However, when hazing results in serious injuries and even death, the whole practice has to be scrutinized.

In a time where virtually everything is pushed to the extreme, hazing is one of the most disturbing affairs. There must be better ways to promote group identity than through compulsory binge drinking and sadism.

Schools should be held responsible for the consequences of hazing when it takes place on campus or during school-sanctioned or organized programs. More importantly, students should be educated about responsible drinking. As for physical violence, they must learn that there is no place for physical abuse of any sort in college life or anywhere else.

Several U.S. states have anti-hazing legislation, and, in France, hazing can result in up to six months in jail or a fine. If students and colleges cannot voluntarily curb the excesses of this ritual, laws should be enacted to safeguard against such abuse. It is time to reverse this brutal trend.

First Post: Keeping track of English articles related to hazing in Korea

Here is the blog post

Extremely well written and disturbing.

Kim Min-kyoung and Park Bo-mi 


“When I was in middle school, I went to a Gyeongbok High School festival, and I thought the weightlifting club’s bodybuilding was cool. So I thought I should really join if I go to the school.”

Gyeongbok High School freshman Pak Min-cheol (17, assumed name) and six others joined the school weightlifting club in September of last year. But Pak’s dream of showing off his physique during school festivals turned into a nightmare.

Not long after joining, about ten upperclassmen in the second year began calling the freshmen off campus. They handed out disciplinary punishments to the freshmen, saying they did not greet them properly and that their classroom attitude was not good. They frequently beat them during break time and lunchtime. The punishment, which began as slaps to the head, moved on to forcing them to walk to Gyeongbokgung Station with graffiti written on their face, beating them on the thighs with a hockey stick, and beating their backsides with a wooden sword. They even meted out sadistic violence, like taking photos of them after forcing them to strip and pouring boiling water on their chest. They also forced them work part-time as servers in a wedding hall to buy the club windbreakers.

Unable to put up with the violence, the freshmen in November went straight to the police rather than telling their parents and school. Seoul’s Jongno Police Station booked without detainment ten second-year students on the bodybuilding team, and after investigating them, handed the case to prosecutors on Jan 7.

After the investigation began, the violence disappeared, but freshman Kim Jae-yeong (17, assumed name) said even now, when someone taps on his back, he is frightened, and when somebody calls his name, he runs away in fear.

In particular, one of the victims, Min Dong-su (17, assumed name), suffered a punctured lung that filled up with blood, and was hospitalized on Jan 7. Min had complained of difficulty breathing and pain in his chest since being beaten several times in November. He said he wanted to leave the club, but the seniors said in order to leave the club, he first needed to be beaten as many times as his class number, which is 88, so he could not. Min said he hoped the upper classmen would be transferred to another school or punished so that there would be no more beating in school.

It was also revealed that the school failed to discover what was going on despite the violence continuing for over two months. The bodybuilding club had been suspended due to upperclassmen’s tormenting of freshmen in 2009, too, but students kept the class going without a guidance teacher. The second-year students who were the assailants this time were the freshman victims in 2009.

An official from Gyeongbok High School said, “The school conducted several investigations during the second semester, but they could not find out anything specific because the victims kept silent.” He said, “The school is currently discussing whether to wait until the prosecutors’ investigation concludes or to convene its own committee to deal with school violence.”

But the school forced the freshman victims to write statements, saying, “You could be punished for joining a club whose activities had been suspended.”