Modern South Korea, officially known as the Republic of Korea, has its own legend of overcoming challenges.
From the era its land, resources, and spirits were obliterated in the Korean War with a 1.2 million death toll, South Korea slowly righted itself to be an East Asian regional power with the world’s 11th largest economy by nominal GDP.
South Korea continued to overcome difficulties throughout the later half of the 1900s and now rose to be a global leader in the industrial and technological sectors, being the world’s 5th largest exporter.
South Korean society is fundamentally organized and powerful, but there are certain traditional Confucian values that take deep root in the society. Women are naturally subordinate to men. Women are only beautiful if they meet a certain beauty standard. The score in the National SAT decides a student’s future. Academic excellence is a pivotal priority. Suicide is the leading cause of death among teens, and 11-15 year olds report the highest amount of stress out of 30 developed nations.
Among this South Korean mindset of limitations and emphasizing obedience, there is a silent tradition: abuse. There are many forms of abuse in modern Korean society, but the most prevalent is dating violence. In 2017, the Korean Institute of Criminology conducted a study based on responses from 2,000 South Korean men. The results show that 1,593 or 79.7% had physically or psychologically abused a girlfriend while they were dating. Public accusations of abuse blossomed in the #Metoo movement, involving the suicide of Prof. and actor Jo Min Ki convicted of sexual violence.
More serious than dating violence is domestic violence. It is mostly against women and is primarily based off the patriarchal societal and family structures, often involving heavy alcohol consumption. According to the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office statistics, 60% of domestic violence cases were dropped from prosecution charges in 2015, while only 15.6% went through the indictment proceedings. A total of 118,178 cases were reported but only 8762 arrests were made. This is mostly due to the Confucian notion that violence between partners should remain a personal matter.
Domestic violence does not apply only for husband to wife, but also prevantly to parent to children. South Korea is famous for its high education standards. A typical high school student, the official school day may end at 4p.m., but can drag on for grueling hours at private cram institutions until 11p.m.. Most of the time, it is the parents who manage and pay for the student’s cram school schedule. This obsessive control of a child from a young age robs a child the ability to make decisions and career choices for oneself. There are also plenty of important factors that determine a child’s future other than academics, such as personal qualities.
Weeks before the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, it was found by a joint investigation by Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee found that Suk Hee Shim, 21, was physically abused by her coach Cho-Jae Bum. Shim is one of the five short-track skaters who won gold in the 3,000m relay at Pyeongchang Olympics. It was revealed that she was punched and kicked repeatedly in the face until weeks before the Olympic games.
It is often the case that the violence is all for the sake of enforcing discipline. However, violence and abuse simply does not encourage or motivate a person for better performance. What effects it really entails are PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and alcohol, and drug abuse. If this abuse and high-tension environment is sustained at home with their parents, students will express their stress in negative ways such as bullying other students at school. Beating an individual into obedience is an endless and fatal tradition, which has its definite limits.
<Hyerin(Lynn) Noh / Crean Lutheran High 11th