Seung-min’s room has not changed in seven months. Even the bed is exactly as he made it, just hours before taking his own life. The 13-year-old was bullied at school, and he committed suicide by jumping out of his home’s seventh floor window.
His mother, Lim Jee-young, reads his suicide note as she has countless times since his death. In the note he describes being beaten and robbed by boys in his class, burned with lighters and having electrical wire was tied around his neck as a leash. At the end of the letter he says: "I love you mum and dad, please don’t be sad I’m gone, I’ll wait for you." Lim had no idea her son was being bullied. "It got to the extent they were using a wooden stick and boxing gloves. But he didn’t tell us any of this."
"I pulled back the cloth and saw my son," she says. "I put my arms around him and felt he was still warm. I said he’s still alive, and I called for a doctor, but they told me he is already dead. When I looked up I saw the open window." As she says this, Lim looks over at the window her son jumped from, reliving the horror.
The boys who bullied her son have since been prosecuted and sent to a juvenile correction center, but Lim — herself a teacher — says the school is also at fault. Just five months before my son was killed, a girl in the same grade committed suicide because of bullying. But nothing was done, so it happened again."
"While the former generation overlooked it, school violence has become an important social issue," President Lee Myung-bak said in his opening of parliament earlier this month "This will not only influence the victims but also teenagers and society as a whole. They also lowered the age students can face criminal penalties to 12 from 14.
Schools are being encouraged to hold more team sports, rather than just celebrating individual success. Many schools also now have counseling services or so-called WEE classes. WEE stands for "We, Education, Emotion and is an attempt by the government to give those who need help someone to talk to.
Cho Hyun-jun, 17, used the counseling service to get advice for his friend who is being bullied. "Bullying victims have a hard time," he says, "because they feel there is no one they can ask for help, so a place like this is really important."