February 27, 2023
SEOUL – President Yoon Suk Yeol has pledged to combat school violence and promote greater social justice after having to cancel a key personnel appointment when the chosen official was found to have defended his son in a school bullying case.
During a meeting with his secretaries on Monday, Yoon directed the Education Ministry to “collaborate with relevant organizations such as local offices of education to develop measures for eradicating school violence as quickly as possible,” according to a statement from Yoon’s senior press secretary, Kim Eun-hye.
Yoon’s remarks followed his cancellation of the appointment of former prosecutor-turned-lawyer Chung Sun-sin as head of the National Office of Investigation. The withdrawal of the appointment followed revelations that Chung’s son was involved in an eight-month campaign of verbal harassment that resulted in the victim being transferred to another school.
Yoon’s spokesperson, Lee Do-woon, emphasized Sunday that the president regards school violence “as a serious violation of the right to a free and equitable education.”
At the Yonsei University commencement ceremony Monday, Yoon also committed to enhancing the government’s role in education and care, and providing more “equitable and diversified” educational opportunities.
Based on the “Violence Case Investigation Report” prepared by the school, Chung’s son began harassing his classmate in May 2017. The victim’s grades dropped and he was diagnosed with panic disorder. He struggled to attend school regularly, and he even attempted to commit suicide.
In March 2018, he reported the bullying to the school, leading to Chung’s son receiving an order to transfer to another school. However, Chung, who was then the human rights supervisor of the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office, objected to the decision and even filed an administrative lawsuit with the Supreme Court as a legal representative. His appeals were ultimately unsuccessful. The issue was reported by broadcast news in 2018.
The school violence report also revealed that Chung’s son had boasted about his father, stating that a prosecutor takes bribes and that if someone is close to a judge, they could win a case unconditionally in a trial.
After being appointed to head the National Office of Investigation, Chung provided inaccurate information in the preliminary questionnaire for the verification process. Specifically, when asked if there were any civil or administrative lawsuits involving his family, he answered “no,” despite his son’s bullying case being previously reported.
Lee acknowledged that there were shortcomings in the verification process, as the issue pertained to Chung’s children rather than the candidate himself. “The office will explore ways to improve the verification process within legal limits,” he said.