SOUTH KOREA - The recent death of a teenager bullied by his peers for two years has sparked widespread public outrage and prompted President Park Geun-hye to order emergency measures to fight school violence.
A 15-year-old high school student killed himself in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang Province Monday.
He left a note that listed the names of five schoolmates who had repeatedly bullied him since 2011, police said Tuesday.
He said he was beaten by them in locations that were not covered by surveillance cameras. The police said there are other students victimized by the bullies mentioned in the note.
Park on Tuesday instructed officials to come up with effective and fundamental solutions to root out school violence and other major crimes that threaten people's lives.
"Fighting against the 'four social evils' is the most basic direction that the new government pursues for the happiness of the people. But how can (we) make a happy nation if there are people suffering from such violence," Park was quoted as saying by officials after she was briefed on the result of an emergency meeting of related officials at Cheong Wa Dae.
Park has promised to beef up public security to combat what she describes as the "four social evils" of sexual violence, school violence, food-related crimes and crimes that destroy families.
The government plans to hold a follow-up meeting with senior officials from the related agencies on Thursday to discuss measures to eradicate school violence. The meeting will be presided by Kim Dong-yeon, chief of the Prime Minister's Office, and will be attended by vice ministerial officials from 10 ministries and agencies including the police and the Education Ministry.
Officials are likely to discuss a wide range of measures such as installing more surveillance cameras at schools, increasing the number of police officers exclusively assigned to handle school violence and developing anti-violence education programs for students.
Officials at Cheong Wa Dae said Wednesday they have already discussed installing new surveillance cameras that have high image quality as a technical method to strengthen the monitoring system at schools.
Political parties called for immediate and comprehensive action from the government. The opposition Democratic United Party promised to fully cooperate with the ruling party to crackdown on school violence.
"(We) hope the Park Geun-hye government will come up with practical measures on school violence. The DUP will fully cooperate with (the Saenuri Party) on setting measures on school violence," said Rep. Park Hong-keun at an emergency meeting held at the DUP head office.
Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party, referred to school violence as one of the serious crimes the nation must eradicate.
"School violence is a serious crime. We have many other pending issues, (but problems with) school violence are what we must solve," he said in a meeting at the party's headquarter. The chairman also urged the new education minister to make a full-fledged effort to crackdown on school violence
"The Education minister should risk his career to come up with solution and schools should take responsibility to deliver practical education (programs that help student become decent citizens)," he said.
Concerns are rising over a lack of protective measures at schools after the bullied student said the monitoring system currently in place is useless.
"I was constantly beaten by bullies at blind spots where they hid from surveillance cameras or under cameras that have low image quality to identify (faces of victims and offenders)," he wrote. "Everyone says they can't install more cameras or replace them with new ones because they don't have money. But I think that is an excuse," he added. He also left a message to the police that they won't be able to stop school violence without drastic measures.
School violence has become one of the most serious social problems in recent years. About four out of 10 students in primary and secondary schools in Seoul were victims of school violence last year, according to a recent report by Seoul city government.
Amid rising calls to stop school violence, the Lee Myung-bak government announced a package of anti-violence measures last month. Measures included offering greater authority to teachers to deal with school violence and strengthening disciplinary actions for violent students.
Experts, however, urged the government and education authorities to step up efforts to create an environment where victims no longer fear retaliation and can easily request help.
On top of obligating the schools to put in place preventative programs, teachers and parents should pay more attention to the students for the movement to be more affective, they added.