Monday, May 30, 2011

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.

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