What Could/Would You Do? Or, Korean Punishment

And, my day had been going so well.

I had finally, after a week of delaying and dilly-dallying, gotten back to the gym. After nearly two months being cell phone-less, my package from The Arrival Store had arrived. It was past 7:30pm. Classes were finished. I had eaten a lovely assortment of various Korean meal items like a can of tuna, dried seaweed, kimchi, rice and some dried radish in gochujang. And, I was correcting student diary books, which is where the trouble began.

This student, Andy, had written in his book before about how his father had been very angry with him because one of the teachers at our school had contacted him about Andy. It sounded bad but more like bad in that the kid was getting due punishment for either being a bad student or a bad egg.

But, I knew better. I just didn’t, don’t want to think about something I cannot control. 

But, the entry I read tonight forced me into my boss’ office, for her to look. Talk of his mother “cursing like a pirate” was funny, especially since I did not expect a student to know such a phrase. But, it escalated. She beats him everyday, according to the entry. Police have been involved, in that she has gone to them. And, the kicker: “I want to die.”

For anyone who doesn’t know, certain words in English stand out especially well to the Korean ear. “Crazy” is one. “Die” is another. Spoken in jest, to a classroom of 11 year olds, you’ll get a ton of giggles. But, when in all seriousness, it’s no laughing matter.

Julia gasped when she read the entry. Could he be over dramatic? Maybe. But, it’s Korea. Whether you love this place or absolutely hate it, there is one truth, spoken by a former teacher three years ago: Korea is a blend of first and third world countries. It’s catching up. In some ways, it’s still in the Dark Ages. Not everyone thinks corporal punishment is right. But, it’s still out there, I’m sure in larger numbers than I even realize.

Julia said she would talk with the Korean teacher Andy attends. I will follow up with both of them tomorrow. And, I feel utterly powerless. What else can I, or should I, do?


3 thoughts on “What Could/Would You Do? Or, Korean Punishment

  1. Give him lots of positive attention because even if this kid was being over-dramatic, he is still shouting out for attention. He needs it, and he’s not getting it. You did the right thing. I suppose if the police have been involved, eventually the Korean teachers could follow up. That’s very hard. I’m sorry for the student and for you as a worried teacher. My thoughts are with you both.

  2. One of my students curses a lot in class and I told his homeroom teacher who spoke to him and found out that his mother is dead and all he has is a drunk of a father who hits him sometimes. He came in the next day with a bruise on his face and we both felt terrible and swore to never tell his dad anything bad ever again. When hes bad now I just say ‘we don’t want to call your dad’ and he goes back to being fantastic and smart.

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