Teacher suicide exposes parent bullying in S Korea.



On 5 June, Lee Min-so* described in her diary the fear that overtook her body as she entered her classroom to teach: “My chest feels too tight. I feel like I’m going to fall somewhere. I don’t even know where I am.”

On 3 July the primary school teacher wrote that she had become so overwhelmed by the craziness of work she “wanted to let go”.

Two weeks later, the 23-year-old was found dead in her classroom store cupboard by her colleagues. She had taken her own life.

Min-so’s cousin, Park Du-yong, struggles not to cry as he straightens out her small, empty apartment, now home to just her goldfish. Her bed is unmade, and beside it sits a pile of drawings from her first-grade students, telling her how much they loved her. Underneath is a stack of library books on how to cope with depression.

Park says his cousin had been teaching for little over a year, fulfilling her childhood dream by following her mother into the profession. She had adored the kids, he says.

So in the days after his cousin’s death, which police quickly pinned on a recent breakup, Park assumed the role of detective. He unearthed hundreds of diary entries, work logs and text messages.

They revealed that in the months leading up to her suicide, Min-so had been bombarded by complaints from parents. Most recently, one of her pupils had slashed another child’s head with a pencil, and she’d been embroiled in heated late phone calls and messages with the parents.

This tragedy has unleashed a wave of anger from primary school teachers across South Korea, who have started to share their experiences of being bullied by overbearing parents and unruly children. Tens of thousands of them have gone on strike to demand better protection at work.

They say parents frequently push them to breaking point, by calling their personal phones every hour of the day and weekends, incessantly and unfairly complaining.


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