By Lee Hyo-jin
Police are investigating a case in which a 15-year-old student at a middle school in South Jeolla Province is accused of repeatedly bullying a fellow student of mixed Korean heritage for several months.
According to the South Jeolla Provincial Police Agency, Thursday, the victim, whose mother is from Vietnam, has been bullied by the other student since January of this year. Both are on the school rugby team.
The victim accused his teammate of assaulting him with a vacuum cleaner in the rugby team dormitory multiple times, and mocking the victim's mother's accent by imitating her in front of other students. He also took 50,000 won ($45) from the victim by threatening to spread the fact that his mother was from Vietnam if he refused to pay up.
The victim did not report the incidents out of concern that his parents would worry about him. He was especially worried that it would affect his father's health, as he is currently receiving hospital treatment for late-stage lung cancer.
Having heard about the bullying from another parent, the victim's aunt reported it to the school and police on June 1.
"We have separated the victim from the attacker, and the regional education office is planning to launch an investigation into the matter," a school official said.
Although the number of students with multicultural backgrounds is increasing in Korea, many of them still face discrimination, which reflects longstanding prejudice against people of mixed Korean heritage in society.
There were 147,378 students of mixed Korean heritage across the country in 2020, a threefold increase from 2013, according to data from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family. Meanwhile, three out of 10 parents of mixed-heritage children said they have experienced discrimination, according to a survey conducted by the National Youth Policy Institute in April.