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Amid rising cases of sexual misconduct among teachers, lawmakers are sounding the alarm

Amid rising cases of sexual misconduct among teachers, lawmakers are sounding the alarm

Students walk to school in a photo that has nothing to do with the article. (YONHAP)

The increasing number of cases in which teachers sexually abuse their students is prompting politicians to call for better prevention measures.

From 2019 to the first half of this year, a total of 448 cases of teachers or other teaching staff sexually abusing students at elementary, middle or high schools were reported, according to data obtained by liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Jin Sun-mee on Thursday from education offices in 17 different cities and districts.

After reaching 100 cases in 2019, the number fell during the Covid-19 pandemic – 52 cases in 2020 and 59 in 2021. However, it recovered when schools resumed normal operations after Covid, reaching 91 cases in 2022 and 111 cases last year.

In the first half of this year, 35 cases were reported.

By type of crime, sexual harassment was the most common crime with 239 cases, followed by sexual assault with 133 cases and sexual violence with 31 cases.

Regionally, Gyeonggi recorded the highest number of cases with 89, closely followed by Seoul with 82. In Gwangju there were 44, in South Jeolla 33 and in South Chungcheong 28.

The reports submitted by teachers to the individual school authorities indicate that many cases were probably grooming, in which the perpetrators built up an emotional bond with minors in order to lower their inhibitions about sexual abuse.

Reported cases included instances of teachers engaging in romantic relationships with students, making promises of marriage in exchange for sexual favors, and engaging in inappropriate physical contact, such as touching hands after offering to purchase clothing and food.

On June 27, the former chairman of the Korean Teachers Association resigned from his post after letters from his time as a high school teacher to one of his students surfaced.

A screenshot of a letter from a teacher at a middle school in Daejeon to her student with whom she had been in a romantic relationship since September (SCREENCAPTURE)

A screenshot of a letter from a teacher at a middle school in Daejeon to her student with whom she had been in a romantic relationship since September (SCREENCAPTURE)

The letters contained phrases like “I only see you, everyone else disappears” and “I love you and think of you even in my dreams.” He even referred to her as “my goddess.”

That same month, a teacher at a middle school in Daejeon was found to have been in a romantic relationship with her student since September. She has since been fired from her position.

However, it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics on grooming-related sex crimes – none of the 17 school boards treats this crime as a separate offense. This underscores the need for preventive measures and systematic reforms to address these problems.

“The continued spike in teacher-on-student sex crimes in schools shows that our education and prevention systems are failing,” Jin said.

She also noted that grooming is particularly concerning because close friends and family members of victims – and sometimes even the victims themselves – often do not realize that they are victims of abuse.

Jin called for fundamental measures to eradicate sex crimes in schools, especially grooming, and announced plans to propose legislative changes requiring reporting of all school-related sex crimes to the education minister.

BY HAN JEE-HYE, WOO JI-WON ([email protected])