Healing Programs for School Bullies and Their Parents in South Korea

Friday, July 18, 2014: 4:10 PM
Room: F205
Oral Presentation
Helen OH , Sociology, Sogang University, Seoul, South Korea
This study presents several social problems related to the South Korean government’s new policy declaring bullying at school to be one of the four major forms of violence (sexual abuse, domestic violence, school violence, and harmful foods), and addresses why only the bullies and their parents are faced with legal liabilities and social responsibility. In particular, this study addresses the problem of schools and the government shifting the responsibility for school bullying onto bullies’ families. Schoolteachers and policymakers hope for “deviant” families to transition into a “normal”condition through healing programs. Recently, healing programs are springing up for a wide variety of psychological problems. In this social context, school bullies and their parents are beingrequired to participate in healing programs.

  This study employs ethnography and in-depth interviews with participants in art healing programs. The interviews target healers, program staff, bullies and their parents. The bullies are 14- to 16-year-old middle school students. Findings report that staff and participants in the healing programs do not regard bullies as “deviant.” In addition, participating students and parents believe that schools have great social responsibility for the bullying problem.

  The importance of this study lies in its exposure of the fact that bullies and their parents receive recognition as “normal” in the healing program, but this is a context outside of school. Therefore, after they complete their course in the healing program, they are still treated as bullies and potential perpetrators of school violence. Consequently, they are confused about their social identity. Bullies and their parents are confronting the problem of liminality (i.e. the psychological threshold when transitioning from one stage to another) or social normality.