Students Make Teacher Kneel and Apologise to Class

This is not the first case where a student defies teacher authority

Not the first case of a student defying the teacher's authority

The Korean educational system has been under fire for some time now – with cases of school bullying, suicide, and violence against students often making headline news. But recently there has been a reversal of roles, where students retaliate against their teachers.

Many see the new trend not only as a complete breakdown of school authority, but also of societal values – Korea having for so long placed heavy importance on social-rank relationships, especially that between student and teacher. This week was exemplary of this so-called breakdown. A middle school teacher uses both a slim and chubby student within the classroom in an attempt to demonstrate the theory of gravity – furious students demanding the teacher kneel down to the floor and apologize for their unscrupulousness. The story has gone viral, becoming the most discussed of the week, attracting a cumulative of well over ten thousand comments from all three major Korean portal websites.

The act of going down on one’s knees in the East Asia is deemed as shameful and the last resort to ask for forgiveness, as both koreaBANG and chinaSMACK have covered before.

From Newsis:

‘Collapse of Teacher’s Authority’ – Middle School Girls Make Teacher Kneel

An incident involving middle school girls and their teacher during class is stirring up worries about infringement of teacher’s authority. The students pointed out their teacher’s mistakes, making the teacher kneel and apologise.

On the 17th of May, at a middle school in Eumseong, South Chungcheong Province, a science teacher was teaching a class on the law of gravity.

The teacher called out a fat student and a slim one to the front of the class, in order to help the class understand the principle of gravity more easily.

The teacher told the two students to hold hands and pull each other apart, and the slimmer student was dragged towards the other student.

The teacher explained the phenomenon using the principle of gravity; a smaller force gets pulled towards to a larger force.

That brought the trouble. The fat student burst into tears with humiliation from the teacher’s explanation, causing a clamor in the class.

Moreover a student stood up to press the teacher to apologise, followed by most other students demanding the teacher to kneel as well as make an apology.

Panicking at the sudden response and aggressive demands of the students, the teacher eventually kneeled down and apologised to the fat student and the rest of the class in a desperate attempt to fix the situation.

This incident rapidly went viral, reaching the parents via students as well as throughout the school.

Every parent who knew about the incident is worrying about the collapse of teacher’s rights, saying it is preposterous to ask a teacher to kneel down and apologise, whatever mistake he or she has made.

‘This is over the bound, even in the modern world,’ a parent said, ‘it is sad to see the school education system is going backwards and the teacher’s authority collapsing.’

An official at the Eumseong Educational Support Office reported that the students demanded an apology as a joke, and that the teacher looked like kneeling down when in fact bending to look at the crying student in the face.

‘We will verify what exactly happened and then discuss appropriate measures,’ the official added.

Comments from Daum:


Don’t blame others. Parents are at blame the most.


The teacher should have explained it in a more sensible way, as the students are in their puberty… but still… the students obviously went too far


These days you’ll feel sorry if you treat students as students. Not all, but many students look just like trash to me.


It was potentially a humiliating situation… but did they really have to go that far… hope the students get children just like themselves…

Bodhi tree:

The teacher did make a mistake. But the greatest blame goes to the parents. They really overindulge their children, now that most families have just one child or two children. My three-year-old son is soft-natured so has never hit anyone but still gets smacked often. But most of the parents scold their children only very lightly. They don’t ever do anything other than say ‘no, you shouldn’t do that~~’ in a really cute way. Same goes for everyhing else [in discipline of the children], so it’s not surprising the children grow audacious.


Gwak No-hyeon [the educational superintendent], you dirty son of a bitch, are you watching this!!!


What a wonderful world. It’s obvious what will become of it now.


Both the teacher and the students were at fault… but still… girls… don’t smirk at the memory of this incident when you become adults


Churning out nothing but trash…


Hah.. my heart feels heavy


It’s alright… Those bitches will get it all back from bitches just like them…


Parents, earth your heads


I’m at a loss with words at the official’s busy attempts to cover the scandal in whatever way possible.


The Korean Teachers Union…No-Hyeon Gwak, you sobs!!!


Suspend all the phucking brats. These bitches will even make their mom kneel when she makes a mistake


Why are the students so sensitive?


Teachers in the old days would get the bribes from parents and whip the students anyway, and the students who got whipped then grew up to become young teachers only to get smacked by the kids. A beautiful country this is, ke ke ke ke


Must you explain a scientific principle by humiliating students about their body shape?


The teacher is at faultㅡㅡ Couldn’t you explain the law of gravity with objects weighing different?ㅡㅡ Body shape is a personal worry for fat and small students, so you shouldn’t play jokes with thatㅡㅡ You wouldn’t feel nice to make a joke out of your weaknesses. Of course the teacher had to apologise, it’s nonsense that it infringes upon teacher’s authorityㅡㅡ so should a student stay quiet when the teacher makes an upsetting remark about one’s weaknesses?ㅡㅡ


Not any old incident can be seen as infringement on teacher’s authority. Then can you recover the authority by giving them a good beating? The students did go over the bound, but you can’t talk about violation of authority without making an accurate explanation of the situation. Teachers should behave like teachers, as much as students should behave like students.

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  • k

    That’s on the teacher. I am an elem. Teacher and I’ve taught in the USA and in Korea and I learned in college in my teacher edu program, as well as through lots of classroom experience on how to manage children and as a teacher you should never allow your students to demand anything from you like that and give in. The teacher made a dumb mistake to use those kids as an example but as soon as one of those kids jumped up and started making demands, like they were the authority, the teacher should of warned then punished. There is nothing wrong for a teacher to admit fault and she sbould of apologized to those kids privately but she could of done that while maintaining authority. Now her students will have no respect for her and trample her.

  • lonetrey

    Teacher should’ve just beat them with a stick.

    Just kidding. But seriously, they should’ve have given a fuck what the student “demanded” of them.

    • lonetrey

      *the teacher SHOULDN’T have given

  • Mich’insaeki

    It’s not that corporal punishment is wrong, it’s patently wrong… but as with everything in Korea… it was removed unilaterally as a disciplinary option in Korea without introducing alternatives. Now there’s a power vacuum in Korean classrooms and the kids know it. There are two elements to this. Korean teachers were abusive because they _could_ be abusive. Apparently most of them haven’t figured out yet they’re not just gonna pull rank on Korea’s princelings in the hopes of keeping them inline. If Ladygate is any indicator, this little incident should inspire students from across the Morning Ramyun Barf to start posting their Classroom Coups online. Look forward to it.

    • onLooker

      Agree with the first half of your comment but a little less with the latter part. Corporal punishment was removed unilaterally without introducing alternative disciplinary options and not giving time to re-educate the teachers on how to conduct and manage the class without it. basically giving some teachers time to realize that some of the abusive acts won’t fly anymore (that is if they realized it was being abusive to begin with). Also agree with the power struggle.

      But the students’ should realize (the smart ones at least) that with this power struggle a unique opportunity has opened for them to have a say in the kind of education they want. But with the students’ reaction here… that opportunity may be quickly closing. Because what they did wasn’t just subjugate a teacher. It will be seen to some as not only attacking the authority of “a” teacher but teacher”s” in general and to “authority” figures (ie parents, the law etc.). “kids gone wild” !?! against the Confucian principles that permeates more/less strongly in its social/cultural structure.

  • Anonton

    Good on the students. It doesn’t matter if teachers are deemed by society to be rulers of students, the teacher made a very rude and bad demonstration and deserved to be humiliated. I’m actually proud of the kids for having the courage to do such a thing, because when i was their age i sure wouldn’t have had the courage to do that, and i live in a much more casual country than Korea.

    • lonetrey

      To be honest, these were my initial thoughts too. But then when looking at both sides rather than just the side you’ve felt before in life, it’s not really fair is it?

    • glenn

      you should realize that if students are given too much right and power, chaos will ensue inside classrooms. Teachers do make mistakes but there are appropriate and respectful ways that a student can do to let the teacher know about such.

    • maja

      what’s up with all this humiliation stuff? how comes that either I’m over you or you are over me? this is a really strong attitude in east asia. I really don’t understand it…
      anyways the article reports that “it seems the teacher bowed but it’s still not confirmed”.

  • glenn

    there are two ways to look at this:

    Culturally and professionally

    Professionally: A teacher is a teacher and in a classroom they are considered to have the absolute authority. Though some modern approach in teaching suggests that teachers need to be more interactive and to be more level or approachable with their students, it must not be interpreted that you allow students to over power you or treat you like they are of the same level as you are.
    Teachers are human and they do make mistakes, even genius admits having made mistakes but to make them kneel in front of students who are supposed to show them respect is another thing and serves as a bad precedence. As a teacher, I expect my students to tell me when I make mistakes or if I ever offend them. However, I always tell them to do it in a way that would not be disrespectful and if possible in private.

    Culture plays a very important role in modling on how we view or interpret things around us. Koreans are very particulars of their size, weight, height, etc. The comparison was accurate when the teacher emphasized about the bigger force overpowering the smaller one. If you do that in my class here in my country, it would be not be taken as an insult. However Koreans, specially those in their middle school are very particular about their looks, such that an innocent act such as that may be misconstrued as saying that they are ugly, etc. It’s their personal interpretation that made the situation go awry.

    But the main point should be that teachers should not and should never allow themselves to be driven by students demands. If teachers learns to bow down to students as easy as that, then students will try to use that every chance they get.It’s not about making a mistake, its about how you handle it.

  • Stories of butts

    I think that the teacher should have apologized to the student and class, since what she did was a bit rude, but she let them walk over her in such a way that she shouldnt expect for her students to respect her at all anymore.

    Is the video floating around on youtube? I kinda want to see it.

  • Jang

    The kid was fat, now he/she is a fat baby. Nothing worse! The article says it was a girls middle school but the picture shows a male, what’s up with dat? This wouldn’t have happened to a male teacher so I question what Janice wrote here…”Korea having for so long placed heavy importance on social-rank relationships, especially that between student and teacher. This week was exemplary of this so-called breakdown.”
    Again, it wouldn’t have happened to a male teacher. The student(s) wouldn’t have stood up, gotten out of his seat and demanded an apology on the knees. Therefore, no breakdown exists. Male students have been making sexual connotations(and worse) to female teachers for years, so asking a female teacher to get on her knees sounds like the kid has been watching porn.

    • James

      Sorry, that should’ve been clearer. The image is from an earlier incident which is what the caption (perhaps not particularly clearly) is referring to. There were no photos of this one this time.

  • chucky3176

    80% of all teachers in public schools are now female. There are no more male teachers to assert authority.

    They took away the corporal punishment, fine. But what they really did was take away punishment altogether. Now students know they can do anything in class. Respect for teachers and schools are lost. Now school violence is rampant, school discipline is low, and there are no authorities who can handle the fast breakdown. The entire education system in South Korea is collapsing on its own.

    With all cases that Korea tries to fix, Korea just seems to go from one extreme to the other completely opposite extreme. These wild swings from one side to the other has always puzzled me. Why can’t there be a middle road?

    • Justin_C

      very astute observation, chucky-san
      quick and dirty answer, according to my friends in ministries is that the outcome of the policy implementation is not the focus in south korea. Often the politicians in charge, owing to the popular pressure to act, just tell them to change whatever is demanded with very little thought about the long-term consequences.

      so the typical process is

      1) ‘student beaten badly in class by teacher, suffers concussion, phone-camera footage emerged. students traumatised’ story all over the net

      2) massive popular outcry, demands change immediately

      3) MPs criticize minister/ bureacrats for current policy

      4) worry about next election/ pension

      5) drastically change policy – no corporeal punishment! – with very little thoughts into how this would actually impact the classroom dynamics

      6) 6 months later, ‘teacher beaten by students, video footage emerges’ story breaks on 9 o’clock news

      7) return to step 2)

      at least they tend to respond very quickly to any public outcry because of relatively short election cycle :p

  • I’m done some teaching (both in Australia and Việt Nam), and my sympathies are whole-heartedly with the students. The teacher was unprofessional in using an overweight student to demonstrate gravity.

  • kochevnik

    Authority is a stupid relic of barbaric societies. Only robots should worship authority.

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  • Chiyo

    I’m a teacher in Korea and we call the parents often. It’s no surprise that when calling the bad student’s parents for acting up in class, using cell phone, etc most of them take the side of their child. The students often lie to their parents and the parents believe them. There are some bad teachers out there but stop blaming teachers for shit students. That being said, I do believe the teacher should have demonstrated gravitational forces another way.

    • aaaaaaaaa

      that’s Korean parenting for you, same with Chinese. Number one producer of sociopaths

    • Truck Furniture Maker

      It amazes me that many Korean parents believe their students word. My parents would just ignore what I said, assume the school was correct and then beat the hell out of me :).

  • Were the students reading a “Little Red Book”? lol!

  • Jeff


  • onLooker

    What the teacher did was obviously wrong and should be reprimanded for it. It wasn’t just a simple mistake like saying something that was factually incorrect. If not for the students’ reaction, the teacher probably would not have found anything wrong with what she did, and if she did she probably thought it was ok to do it because “she” was “the teacher”. It seems that some (not all) teachers in Korea say and do things that are insensitive and downright unprofessional. Clear act of abusing their authority and position and think nothing of it and proceed to get away with it. I heard and/or witnessed many similar abuses. No wonder some students are frustrated and responding back. It makes it that much more difficult for the other good teachers in Korea to do their jobs well.

    But now on the other hand the students’ response was over the top. They responded poorly to an already bad situation. If they want teachers who are more professional, who don’t abuse their position and more sensitive to the students, it would have been better for them to choose another method in addressing their grievances. They might have gotten the teacher to bow but the long lasting ramifications may not be ones they expect or desire.

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  • Truck Furniture Maker

    Frankly, students who are this arrogant are not worth teaching since they don’t have the mentality to learn. Also, a teacher should be smart enough not to use a fat kid to demonstrate gravity. As the job of teaching becomes more and more babysitting/people pleasing; this is the kind of teacher you will get (with no common sense).

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