Friday, June 5, 2009


A few days ago, one of the students in our school brought an air soft gun to school and shot some of his classmates. The assumptions from the staff was that he was acting out in response to repeated teasing about his weight. If you aren't familiar with air soft guns, they work like a BB gun, except the pellets are plastic and there's less pressure involved. They can't really do any harm unless you get someone in the eye. Still, when Hyun-beom told me about the incident, my first reaction was utter horror, having grown up in a place where the rule is no tolerance.

I know I'm making assumptions here, and feel free to correct me in the comments if you think I'm wrong, but this kid would have been out of school in a heartbeat in America. He would have been suspended with mandatory psychiatric evaluation at the least, and expelled at the worst. In Korea, the approach was a little different.

The entire class sat down and wrote letters to each other about the incident. By the end of the day, everyone was friends again.

I'm not saying this method is perfect either. In fact, I'm not necessarily saying one way is better than another. Guns shouldn't be tolerated, but at the same time--people should be. Certainly, some kind of punishment might be called for in a situation like this, but the matter was resolved anyway. The student understood what he did wrong and his classmates realized that teasing him about his weight probably led (in part) to the action.

I guess what really intrigues me about the situation is that in a country where you can buy any number of weapons easily and quickly, kids get kicked out of school for having them. But in a country where firearms are absolutely impossible to procure, a slap on the wrist is all that's necessary.


  1. Scott,

    A thought-provoking post. This may illustrate even more than the differences in food, language and culture you have been reporting to us the differing mindsets between the US and Korea. Although the end result is uplifting, I am saddened by the possibility that the taunting by children of others for something as irrelevant as weight may be a universal human trait.

    Take care,


  2. I would have been horrified. Especially in a country where you can't get guns, where does this elementary school student get it in his head to bring a gun, albeit a fake one, to school? It might be less surprising for a troubled American student because it's a part of our media and school system to talk about these things.

    Although because guns aren't an actual threat here and these children will never have a gun in their lifetimes (outside military training), I guess the perspective is very different.

    I'm also curious because I've not seen one here, but do you know if they have the same rules for toy guns about the orange tip?

  3. Well said Scott. I think the no tolerance policy is an overreaction in many, if not most cases. Unfortunately, guns, real ones, are easy to come by in this country and no one (meaning government officials) has the courage to buck the NRA. Dad

  4. How sad for this child. I think the school responded with the compassion he needed. Do you have Snowball?

  5. Wow...I think they did the right thing when they all got together and made the children understand why the kid brought the airsoft gun. However, I do feel that more of a punishment should have been had on an individual level. Not as far as kicking him out but perhaps detention or whatever sort of punishment system the school has...if they have one?


    Something as crazy as being teased for weight :( He does probably need someone to evaulate him so that the next time he doesn't feel the need for violence. :( Man, growing up, if I brought a weapon each time someone made fun of my weight I'd have never gotten through elementary school.