A total of 240 teachers were disciplined for sexual offences in the past five years, but nearly half of them have been allowed to continue teaching at schools, a lawmaker said Sunday.
From 2009 to June of 2014, 108 teachers committed sexual misconduct against minors and 132 more committed them against adults, according to the Education Ministry data compiled by Rep. Min Hyun-joo of the ruling Saenuri Pary.
The teachers, while not officially prosecuted, were punished by the disciplinary committees of local education offices.
Min's report showed that 115 of them ― or 47.9 per cent ― are still teaching at elementary, middle and high schools across the country. While the number of sexual abuse cases on children or teenagers by teachers increased from nine in 2009 to 29 in 2013, 30.5 per cent of those disciplined retained their teaching posts.
About 62.1 per cent of the teachers accused of felonies against adults were not banned from teaching in schools, due to a loophole in the law concerning sex offenders working in schools.
The law prohibits anyone convicted of sex crimes from working at schools, private institutes and other child or teen-related facilities for 10 years.
But many of the sexual abuse cases involving teachers are settled out of court, with the perpetrators only facing disciplinary action from schools or local education authorities.
For instance, in 2012, a teacher from a public high school in South Gyeongsang Province told a second-year female student at his school to drive with him to the beach, where he molested her. He was suspended by the authorities, but was not banned from teaching.
"Teachers are required of higher moral principles than anyone else. Allowing teachers who committed sexual crimes against students to continue teaching is a serious issue," said Min. She said lawmakers should strengthen the system to prevent sex offenders at schools from taking advantage of legal loopholes.
Education authorities also drew fire for their lenient punishment of teachers who committed sexual offences, a practice that critics claimed is creating a misguided perception among offenders.
Last month, the Korean Teachers and Education Workers' Union issued a statement denouncing the education office for imposing a light punishment on an elementary school principal accused of molesting fellow teachers.
The authorities turned down the teachers' demand that the principal should be banned from working at the cited school, despite admitting that "some inappropriate physical contact had occurred."
More than a dozen teachers who reported the case ― including two victims ― were given warnings for "tainting the credibility of the teachers by expressing their complaints in a collective action."