“Do you want to kiss me?” “Are you sleeping now?” “Why don’t you be my girlfriend?...”
- “If you receive any messages with those sentences, it means you are the next target. Always be careful not to interest him. Do not sit next to him in the meetings and do not visit his office alone”
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On March 7th, one shocking story was reported on the TV program ‘Geugeosi Algosipda’. According to the program, there have been strange rumors in Seoul National University – so -called the best university in Korea – concerned with text-messages. The main story started from a posting on the campus community online site (SNU-life). According to it, there have been frequent sexual harassments of students by professor Kang. What is more surprising is that this has been occurring for 10 years and was not revealed until now. What had been going on?
Recently, influenced by the strong public opinions after the T.V. program, professor Kang was dismissed for sexual harassment. People were shocked because he is a very famous professor who is regarded as a mathematical genius and an author who wrote internationally best-selling books. According to the victims, his actions started from sending personal text messages. In personal meetings, his actions became more severe. He hugged some of them and even tried to kiss them. After this was spread and became problematic, professor Kang tried to make an excuse for his actions by claiming that he just wanted to be close with his students or could not remember anything about it. He was not punished by law until the text-messages and some recordings were made public.
In Korea, this is not a unique case. Many other cases were made public. In case of Deokseong women’s university, the chancellor reported to police as a main body for sexual harassment by one professor. In the close sessions, one professor in a private university in Daejeon was punished by sexual harassment. He sexually harassed students in meetings by claiming that they would receive better grades or obtain scholarships. Aside from those cases, there were similar crimes in many famous colleges such as Korea University, KAIST, and Joong-ang University. How about KNUE, where the main purpose is to cultivate students to become teachers? Shamefully, as many of you may know, there was also a similar case. In 2006, Professor H in Ethics Education sexually harassed his students and this was also reported on TV programs. However, he was only suspended from duty for three months including the vacation and he remained his status as a professor. Since then, some students in Ethics Education have gone on strikes against taking professor H’s classes.
The recent cases mentioned in this article seem to have gone through similar steps. First, when professors were reported for sexual harassment, they told lies that students firstly attracted them or they just did so to be close with them. They did not admit their actions until some certain evidences were found. Second, many of the criminals were not punished strongly by laws or the authorities. In some cases, even though his wrong actions were made public, he has taught students with the same status. Third, the victims could not actively accuse the professors. Because the students are vulnerable and the professors have the power, the students could not report harassment cases for fear of the damage that it would cause on their academic records. In case of graduate school, the problem is more severe because the status of professors to graduate students has absolute power in recommendations for employment.
Aside from the sexual harassment on campus, there have been a lot of similar cases in our society these days. What is surprising about the cases mentioned in this article is that such atrocious acts were conducted by professors who are assumed to have the highest moral standards. Historically, professors’ roles have been strong and standard for justice in each scene of important scene. From this view, they can do important roles as starting points for social development. Then, what are the reasons that they did shameful actions? Many experts say those problems are closely related with their high conceit from their absolute powers to their students. This means that the power makes them think every student is under their powers. Is it necessary for them to have absolute powers? The professors are scholars and educators. It is time to think about their true roles.
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