South Korea offers bodyguards for bullied schoolchildren

SEOUL, Reuters

South Korean students who have trouble with school bullies can soon call on the government to provide them with bodyguards.

South Korea plans to start a trial service next month to cut down on school violence. As a part of that, it will provide personal protection for those bullied students who seek it as they travel to and from school, an official said on Tuesday.

“We are going to try to protect the student who is being bullied and find out who is doing the bullying,” said Park Jung-hee, an Education Ministry official.

Park said the bodyguards — which local media said were likely to come from the police, private security firms and volunteers — will not sit with students during class.

The funding and services are being provided by companies wanting to help cut school violence, Park said.

Bullying is a serious problem in South Korea’s school system, where victims have committed suicide and corporal punishment of students by teachers is illegal but commonplace.

The bodyguard service is one facet of the ministry’s policy to curb school violence that also includes counselling and increased training for educators.

“Violence within schools will not be eradicated right away. Changes can only take place through effective short-term and long-term policies,” Park said.