Life in South Korea

On Hitting Kids…


First let me say I don’t agree with hitting children.   I’ve never (intentionally) hit a kid and I don’t plan to.  There are times when I want to, sure.  There may even be times when I envision my kids flying out of windows etc.  But, like most people back home, I won’t hit a kid simply because it’s just plain wrong.  Koreans, however, do not share this feeling.  Not only is hitting kids acceptable here, it’s common practice.  Hell I think it’d be the national pasttime if Koreans weren’t so awesome at badminton.

It was a 60 year old male teacher’s particularly brutal forearm to the back of a 3rd grade girl’s head the other day in my class that inspired me to write this actually.  I’m pretty sure that’s not even allowd in UFC.  She was talking so he walked up behind her and absolutely clocked her.  He’ s not alone either.  Most of the teachers that accomany their classes to the English Room will smack a kid if he or she is acting up.  At first I thought it was an older generation of teachers that did it and it was being phased out.  Nope.  I’ve since seen lots of younger teachers do it pretty regularly. 

Now don’t get me wrong here.  Most of the time it’s a relatively light smack to the back of the head or the shoulder that doesn’t do much damage.   But there are definitely times when a kid is going home with a bruise.  Every teacher has a “beating stick” as I like to call them, which is essentially a this wooden stick about 2 feet long that they smash against tables and chairs (at times even kids) to scare their kids into silence.  This thing works like you wouldn’t believe.  One time when I was new here I picked up the stick thinking it was a pointer and the kids cowered.  I asked one kid what the problem was and she pointed at the stick (still cowering) and said “ouch.”   All I did was pick it up for 10 seconds and the class was silent for the next 15 minutes. 

Another time I was in the nurse’s office, having a cup of coffee when a teacher comes in towing a 5th grader who is bawling her eyes out.  He had smashed her on the hand with the beating stick for not doing her homework and they were afraid she had broken it.   The nurse confirmed it might be broken and sent the kid to the hospital for x-rays.  When they left I asked “won’t he get in trouble for that?”  The nurse just shrugged it off.  Business as usual I guess.

The problem with hitting kids being so common here (aside from the obvious), is that after a while the kids realize that you, their foreign teacher, won’t hit them no matter what they do.  This makes them much harder to control.  So when their teacher looks up from the other side of the English room where he/she is taking a nap, realizes that his/her class is being bad, comes over quietly and nails a few of them, it’s hard to  keep from feeling at least a little happy.  That’s why you don’t talk when Andrew-teacher is talking kid, cause your teacher will bring the pain on my behalf.


3 Responses to “On Hitting Kids…”

  1. Hmmm…. very instructive; I see where I may have made a mistake as a parent.

  2. Great post! I can see that teaching here in the middle school grades that this sort of hitting doesn’t happen in the same way. I guess order is based on this elementary school foundation of violence (sadly enough!). But I do know that parents hit their kids at least as much ( in many cases…)!

  3. Our neighbour Mrs Kim was shocked to hear that children in Jeon Ju are being hit with sticks. She says that a teacher doing that in Seoul would find him or herself in serious trouble.

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