Last week a Dave's poster snapped pictures of toddlers being locked outside, naked, in the January weather by people at a Seoul daycare. A couple of posters and spouses got together, went to the police, and eventually to the media. An article ran in Ohmynews and was on the front page of Cyworld today. I just saw that Naver picked it up (same article), too.
The Dave's thread is here. The media reaction starts on page 7.
* Update 1: Definitely worth pointing out that the police did nothing. From one of the posters involved:
The conversation with the police basically went like this:
"Do you have kids going to this daycare?"
"Do you know someone who does?"
"Then why do you care?"
The cop then told my wife she couldn't report the crime because she hadn't witnessed it, even though she had the pictures.
* Update 2: Koreabeat has posted a translation of the article floating around. The name of the daycare has been left out, owing to some screwy libel laws. You can find it if you dig through the Dave's thread. The people at the daycare initially denied the charges:
Park Ahmugae, the owner, angrily said, “the 25th was our sports day, so nothing like that happened. This is an untrue rumor which should not have been spoken. Who says we used naked punishments? Somebody is speaking nonsense.”
Another employee at the daycare denied the allegations. “How could such a punishment have been used on such a terribly cold day? This isn’t the 19th century, I would feel sick just to hear of such a thing.”
“I could sue you for slander,” the employee said. After reproaching the reporter, the employee raged, “old people have no work to do, don’t you know we’re running a day care? Doesn’t Oh My News have anything better to do?”
* Update 3: The networks will be having short pieces on the story tonight, as the poster involved was interviewed several times. The first one to air was from SBS, although it made no mention of a foreigner or that the story was broken by her. You can see a 41-second video report on the SBS site, although it wasn't the one that just ran on the 8 o'clock news.
* Update 4: Korea Beat has appended an Ohmynews update to their original story. In spite of the denials earlier in the day, the nursery has now admitted abuse took place. The latest piece is pretty tough to stomach, and I really hope the "severe punishment" coming from the Yongsan-gu Office (don't know what that is) will be more severe than we've seen with other cases of teacher misconduct. Here's an excerpt from an interview with the 25-year-old woman who carried out these punishments:
“I didn’t make him take his clothes off, he did that himself. And how could I have put a little girl out into the cold in just her underpants? I didn’t do it for very long.”
L added, “the responsibility is mine and I will put in my resignation. Though I cannot work with kids again I hope that the school will not be closed.”
The initial Ohmynews report, and the Dave's post, say the school is for low-income families, so hopefully its clients aren't left without a place to go.
* Update 5: Video from KBS (click 동영상보기). Contains a short soundbite from the foreign witness.
* Update 6: I also saw the report on MBC, though it doesn't seem to be available online. They had more with the foreign witness, although they didn't do a great job of masking her identity. They didn't give her an "Alvin and the Chipmunks" voice, like they did the Koreans, and there was only a subtle blur on her face.
It'll be interesting to see how this plays out: whether the teacher and school are held responsible, or whether they'll get slaps on the wrist. I (naively) hope this emboldens others to take a stand on abuses they see around them. Foreigners know the risks that go with intervening in domestic squabbles, bar fights, or animal abuse cases, and I'm not really talking about them. It's too risky and too dangerous, and from this story, the Metropolitician's, and others, we know that the police are unreliable and generally incompetent. I'm actually talking about Koreans, and I wonder if this incident will inspire some to come forward and stand up to what they believe is wrong. The original poster on Dave's, after all, wasn't the only neighbor of the school, and almost surely wasn't the only person to witness these abuses. But the foreign witness was the only person to come forward. From the news reports and the netizen reaction, we can see some Koreans are upset about this abuse case, and I wonder how many of these commenters are pissed that nobody else in the neighborhood did anything. Moreover, this isn't a case that can easily be intpreted as foreigners imposing their own value system on Korea . . . cases of animal abuse or domestic violence, on the other hand, are often written off as cultural differences that foreigners just can't understand, and in which they oughtn't interfere. If the teacher and the school get off with a light punishment, however, or no punishment at all, it will probably prevent others from coming forward in similar situations in the future.
And I don't mean to cheapen the situation, but it's worth mentioning a point Zen Kimchi made. He's right when he wrote:
I wonder if [the media] get the irony that it was one of those foreign English teachers (which they broadly portray as pot smokers and molesters) who exposed the practices of this Seoul daycare by taking this picture and posting the details on Dave’s.
No secret that Korean teachers behaving badly get better treatment in the media than foreigners---foreigners behaving badly or otherwise. I'll go out on a limb and predict that, whatever happens here, this woman and this school will get off much more lightly than a foreigner would in a similar situation. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if her excuse---she was mad---is enough. I'm not trying to start a pissing contest between "us" and "them" because
Special thanks also go out to the other Dave's poster. I'm wary of using their IDs, but you know who they are. He and his wife took the original post to the next level and got results. I still can't believe the gall of those police officers, who didn't want an investigation to interfere with their 8-hour coffee break. Now that's an angle I wish would get covered.
* Update 7: The post on Dave's
* Update 8: See Korea Beat's translation of an interview with the foreign eyewitness and whistleblower.