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Bullying in South Korea

If you are a fan of K-drama and K-movies, you have probably seen scenes where the “popular” kids were seen bullying the weaker student.
Perhaps you have even watched scenes of how employers bully their employees?

Do you ever wonder if this phenomenon of bullying in South Korea is real or it all only happens in the movies?

In this post, we will be breaking down on the different types of bullying that has been happening in South Korea and it’s severity.

Bullying in Korean Schools

Bullying in South Korean schools has been gaining national attention after multiple suicide cases over the past couple of years.

One notable incident that happened was in 2011 when a 15-year-old student from Daegu killed himself after two years of constant bullying. It was the 14th suicide believed to be caused by bullying in Daegu in less than two years.

He left a suicide note stating he was beaten, got his money stolen and also dragged around by a cord around his neck.  He also wrote how they also attempted to do the water torture on him but they decided not to after the other student said it was too dangerous.

In his suicide note, the victim wrote that he was beaten in locations beyond the reach of surveillance cameras.

In his suicide note, the latest victim wrote that he was beaten in locations beyond the reach of surveillance cameras. School bullying usually takes place in areas where there are no CCTV cameras such as bathrooms and classrooms.

There are about 18,179 cameras in schools around Seoul, but nearly 93% of them are low resolution and cannot help identify bullies and victims.

This has caused the government to take measures such as installing higher-resolution CCTV cameras and increasing the number of security personnel.

Bullying at Korean Workplace

South Korean employees have been bullied for a long time now. It was just last year when a video of an employer, Yang Jin-ho -CEO of WeDisk and robot developer K-Technology assaulting his employee.

The perpetrator was seen brutally slapping the victim across the face. The victim does not retaliate but lowers his head in a posture that combines fear and remorse.

The violence does not end here as he continues to berate the victim and assault him again. Yang then orders the man to get on his knees and apologize, before striking him over the head one final time and then walking away.


The video that leaked contributed to South Korean public outrage with what is called 가브질입니다 gabjil . 가브질입니다 Gabjil is the Korean word that refers to powerful people abusing their status to mistreat their subordinates.  

Due to this incident, South Korea has introduced new legislation that will criminalize business owners who unfairly dismiss employees harassed at work. The new law mandates punishment for companies found to have unfairly demoted or fired workers harassed while on the job. 

The law is intended to provide legal protection for workers who call out abuse and motivate managers to prevent such bad behavior. 

What is 왕따 Wangtta ?

Besides the physical bullying and verbal bullying, there is another type of bullying (silent bullying) known as 왕따 Wangtta in South Korea. 왕따 Wangtta is a phenomenon in which a group of Koreans collectively decides to boycott an individual. 왕따 Wangtta can happen within schools, workplace and even within families!

The discrimination of the individual which often leads to persecution is mainly due to their differences. 왕따 Wangtta is characterized by divisions that arise from class, ability, disability, interests, and appearance. 

Even if you don’t personally have a problem with this person (Wangtta), interacting with them will make you into 왕따 Wangtta and you too will be isolated. That is why most students feel that it is best to ignore as well.

According to research done, 6%-16% of Korean adolescents were reported to be socially excluded by their peers, while 10%-20% have reported socially excluding their peers.

What is an 일진 il-jin?

The term 일진 il-jin was used before exclusively for gangsters, mobsters or the “first team” which means the gang’s best fighter.

However, these days the term is used on “bad kids” from school a.ka. the school’s biggest bully – those kids that constantly interrupting the class, skipping school, getting in trouble, smoking, and drinking.

일진 il-jin has often been related to the K-pop world. K-pop singers that have been identified as an il-jin in their past usually do not end well. Some of then end up losing their contracts.

The most recent celebrity to be caught up in 일진 “iljin” controversy is former JYP and Produce X 101 trainee Yoon SeoBin. He was disqualified from the survival program and expelled from the agency due to the complaints received from netizens.

Before being disqualified from ‘Produce X 101’, he was ranked as the number one trainee.

What are your thoughts on bullying in South Korea? Let us know your opinions in the comment below!

Check out our previous blog on the Top 5 Most Beautiful Korean University Campus

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