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[Op-Ed] Video Clip on Sexual Harassment

Posted September. 11, 2009 08:03,   


A video clip spreading on the Internet is causing a stir. A male student at a Seoul high school is shown sexually harassing a female teacher. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education and the school punished the student in the clip and the person who posted the clip on the Web with a suspension of more than 10 days from school. Some say the punishment is too light. The perpetrator is said to be a mischievous student. In the footage, his eyes are beaming with mischief and students nearby are giggling.

Though the teacher said she does not want him to face harsh discipline because he did not intend to sexually harass her, teachers’ organizations are enraged over the incident and are urging strong punishment. The Korea Federation of Teachers’ Associations said, “The incident is a reflection of widespread disrespect for teachers,” asking schools nationwide to strengthen education on Internet etiquette and good character and strive to establish proper teacher-student relationships. For its part, the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union urged stern punishment for the student, saying, “The student’s act not only violated the teacher’s right to teach but also constitutes a human right violation and sexual harassment.”

Many high school students, however, said through Web replies that the punishment was excessive. Certain adults also criticized the suspension of the students, with one saying, “Such an act can happen at any school.” Another said, “I was more mischievous when I was in high school. I saw a female teacher’s underwear using a mirror.” A clear line should be drawn on student mischief, however. Though the unique characteristics of adolescents are taken into account, calling a female teacher “elder sister” and putting an arm around the neck of the teacher should not be tolerated.

The students crossed the line by asking a female teacher out and titling the video “How to Pick Up a Female Teacher.” The incident should also serve as an opportunity for the older generation to reflect on themselves. Teenagers might have been affected by low grade films and pornography. The incident is the result of waning teacher authority, an incorrect perception of sexuality, the spread of obscene video materials, and a distorted Web culture.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)