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Jeju leaders fuming over school bullying of island-native student

By Choi Jae-hee

Published : Feb. 28, 2023 - 15:23

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Oh Young-hun, Governor of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province. (Yonhap) Oh Young-hun, Governor of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province. (Yonhap)

The school bullying case involving the son of prosecutor-turned-lawyer Chung Sun-sin has angered many South Koreans, but it sparked a particularly strong outcry among residents and leaders of Jeju Island.

According to local reports, Chung’s son constantly abused a classmate who was also his dormitory roommate, calling him a “pig from Jeju” and a “commie,” while they were attending an elite, private high school in Gangwon Province in 2017.

Oh Young-hun, governor of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, has openly expressed strong displeasure toward the bullying case, saying “I am gravely concerned about the fact that the boy fell victim to school violence just because he was from Jeju,” during a council meeting held Monday at the Jeju provincial government office.

He directed officials to check if other Jeju-born students enrolled in mainland schools are being discriminated against for their background.

Other Jeju politicians also voiced anger.

“It is outrageous that the victim was called a commie because he was born in Jeju,” Rep. Kim Han-gyu of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea said in a Facebook post, Sunday.

Chung, who had worked alongside President Yoon Suk Yeol in the public prosecution, had been appointed to head the police’s National Office of Investigation. On Saturday, he resigned over his son’s bullying case.

What infuriated the public was not the son’s acts, but Chung’s.

When the school decided to transfer his son to another school in a disciplinary action, Chung, who was a senior prosecutor at that time, put up a drawn-out legal fight to challenge that decision, taking the matter all the way to the Supreme Court.

The top court eventually ruled in favor of the school and the victim, but the whole process had effectively delayed the son’s school transfer, allowing him to continue attending the school until just before graduation. While Chung’s son is now enrolled in the prestigious Seoul National University, the victim could not continue his own studies and reportedly attempted suicide.

 

Former prosecutor Chung Sun-sin whose son verbally abused a classmate who hailed from Jeju (Yonhap) Former prosecutor Chung Sun-sin whose son verbally abused a classmate who hailed from Jeju (Yonhap)

 

Labeling Jeju Island residents as communists is a sensitive issue in South Korea, as it can be seen as a reference to the April 3 Massacre. In 2003, a truth commission found that the government forces were responsible for the civilian massacre committed in the name of a crackdown on communist insurgents. Nearly 70 percent of all villages on the island were destroyed and 10 percent of the population were killed after the widespread atrocities.