Pourquoi les enseignants en Corée du Sud ont peur de leurs élèves et de leurs parents

231013095727 01 south korea teachers enough


In recent months, tens of thousands of teachers in South Korea have been protesting for more protection from students and parents. The protests come in response to the suicide of a first-grade teacher, with several more teachers taking their own lives since. The swift and unexpected mass strike by the country’s teaching staff has forced the government to take notice and action. According to government data, 100 public school teachers killed themselves from January 2018 to June 2023, with 11 of them in the first six months of this year. The protests are a result of teachers feeling unable to discipline students due to fear of being sued by parents, and the overwhelming pressure placed on them by the education system and parents. This has led to low teacher satisfaction, with 26.5% of teachers surveyed in April having received counseling or treatment for psychological issues due to their job.


Kang Hyeon-joo’s story is just one example of the struggles that South Korean teachers face on a daily basis. Kang recounts the violence she witnessed in her elementary school classroom, and the lack of support she received from her principal. She found herself feeling the urge to jump in front of a bus as a result of the strain she experienced. Kang’s experiences are not isolated, as many other teachers have faced similar challenges, resulting in a wave of protests and calls for more protection.

According to Sung Youl-kwan, a professor of education at Kyung Hee University, the speed and size of the protests took many by surprise, signaling a shared feeling among teachers that they could be next. The fear of being sued by a small percentage of parents for causing emotional distress to their child has left teachers feeling helpless when it comes to disciplining students. The pressure from parents is so intense that Ahn Ji-hye, an elementary school teacher, received calls from parents from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m., wanting to talk about their child or complain.


In response to the protests, the South Korean government passed legal revisions, providing teachers with some protection from being sued for child abuse if their discipline is considered a legitimate educational activity. The responsibility for handling school complaints and lawsuits brought by parents now rests with the principal, in an effort to reduce the burden on teachers. There are also plans to protect teachers’ personal information and require parents to contact the school with concerns or complaints rather than the teacher directly.

These legal changes are seen as a significant step forward, but many believe that higher-level laws, such as the Child Welfare Act and Child Abuse Punishment Act, also need to be revised. As a result, the protests are expected to continue, with calls for penalties for parents who make unfounded accusations against teachers or practical measures to be implemented in the classroom.


Critics argue that South Korean society places an excessive emphasis on academic success, leading to overwhelming pressure on the education system and teachers. Students are expected to attend cram schools after regular school hours, and the national college entrance exam, known as Suneung, is given the utmost priority. The pressure on students to achieve high scores and academic success has a direct impact on teachers, who bear the burden of parental expectations.

According to Professor Sung, the days of automatic respect for teachers are long gone, with the teacher-parent dynamic evolving into a consumer-service provider relationship. The idea that parents have the right to demand many things from schools has created an environment of increased pressure on teachers, contributing to low teacher satisfaction and psychological issues among educators.


To learn more about the struggles of South Korean teachers and the impact of the protests, please visit:

– The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline website: [hyperlink]
– The Federation of Teachers’ Labor Union website: [hyperlink]
– Kyung Hee University’s website: [hyperlink]

Overall, the protests by South Korean teachers highlight the deep-rooted issues within the education system and the need for meaningful change to ensure the well-being of educators and students alike.

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