Haja Center (English&Japanese Blog)

Review on Korea-Japan Exchange Education Forum: ‘Youth Violence and Maladjustment’


Review on Korea-Japan Exchange Education Forum:

‘Youth Violence and Maladjustment’

Written by Akii (Choonghan, Lee) from YoojaSaloon

Translated by Hayan, Jeon


A little suspicious forum was held in the 999 Club in the Haja Center at 4 pm on March 15th. The theme was ‘Youth Violence and Maladjustment’ but the video that kids played instruments and freely romped around was aired on the screen. What happened? The video was to introduce a project named ‘Freely Playing outside Home’ of Yooyoojajeok Salon (Yooja Salon), a social enterprise in Korea. Teenagers on the video were so bright that it was difficult to think they had been victims of bullying or had dropped out of their schools because they couldn’t adapt to school lives. Therefore, it seemed that everybody thought it was a little odd.


Still, there was a weird atmosphere among participants but the forum started. The first presentation was done by the professor Kohei Yamamoto from the Ritsumeikan University in Japan. He became the professor of the Department of Sociology in the university after he had worked as a public officer in mental health field for more than 20 years and he has continuously studied youths like hikicomori who have mental difficulties. It would be good if the first presentation was refreshing but it was about a more intense story.  When the woman in the story who is 28 years old now was 14 years old, her friends locked her in the women’s rest room and made her eat excrement through a hose by force. She repeated hospitalization and being discharged from the psychiatry due to the trauma. These kinds of psychological, physical, and violent bullying make the offenders and the bystanders as well as the victims suffer from a severe trauma. Therefore, we cannot but help be concerned about the situation where recently, Koreans focus just on tracking down the offenders of school violence.

While ‘suicidal of a middle school student happened in Dae-gu’ in 2011 aroused people’s interest in bullying in a Korean society, a male middle school student committed suicide in Nakano, Tokyo in Japan. The accident was called ‘funeral play.’ For the accident, it was shocking that the homeroom teacher was also one of the offenders. Therefore, in his opinion, how to make a group itself be matured is important. If just punishing the offenders is done to resolve the problem, trauma that the viewers or the victims have will not be resolved.

He continued talking about youths’ suicidal in Japan. The country has ranked the first in the suicidal rate of youths in the world for a long period of time and severely, many youths injured themselves, which can lead to suicidal. What can change this is making people view themselves positively. Viewing oneself positively cannot be done only by punishing those who bully others. Therefore, he concluded that it was important to think about how to guarantee the rights of the youths to grow by supporting them in a more positive way.

After the presentation, those who participated in the discussion briefly talked about their opinions. Kyoung-ok Kim, the editor-in-chief of bimonthly magazine named ‘Dandelion’ and the president of the space ‘Dandelion,’ talked about ‘school violence vs. violent school,’ this volume’s theme of the magazine ‘Dandelion.’ The offenders of bullying create the victims, which is considered ‘school violence’ but it is just a part of school violence. The most significant school violence is the system, school, itself. She said that school violence would not disappear without making usual violence become a social issue and there would be no solution without realizing that anyone can be bystanders, offenders, and victims.  

The second session is about the examples of ‘youth offenders.’ Woon-jang Han, a member of the planning team in Filltong, an online learning eco system, who held writing classes titled ‘Guys, You Are Not Bad Persons’ for youth offenders presented about the examples. When they simulated the program for the first time, they gathered teenagers called ‘fighters’ in Bundang. They also held a 12-week program for the youths in a probation office and the results were satisfactory. These youths were the ones who might have become biker gangs or go to the Youth Detention Center later, and lastly might not have been part of society and become hikicomori.

The next presenter was Jae-yeon Jang from the Clean House in Jeju Island. She made the name Clean House under her thought that she had to utilize adults who could help the youths in risk. In other words, she will select some adults who can have a good influence on teenagers by ‘sorting out’ them and reduce their mental age to 15 to become persons who can communicate well with kids. She thought that people who had been involved in programs conducted by public organizations could not find out how to communicate with teenagers in many cases because the issue was about sensitivity and relationship.

The last presenter in the second session was Cheon-sook Lim who was meeting youths in her eco-friendly hair salon in Gumi. Although she was very shy, she spoke about all that she wanted to tell, which made the audiences excited. She continually waved her hands because she was shy about the audiences’ excitement while saying that she did not have any secrets and did not know what she did well. However, her secret was not to brand some teenagers trouble makers because they did make-ups, stole some stuff, or rode motor cycle but to consider them just ‘the same human beings’ and listen to their stories. She said that it seemed the teenagers came to her because they liked it. However, that kind of common sense is rare in our society, which is our reality.

Sato Yosaku, the president of ‘Cultural Learning Cooperation Network,’ an NPO in Tokyo in Japan, commented about the second session. He said that issues of bullying and hikicomori were very serious in Japan and it was estimated that around 500,000 ~ 1 million people in their twenties and thirties could not join society. Hikicomories in their twenties or late thirties talked about their past and they said that they had been bullied. One of the features of bullying happened in Japan is that it is difficult to classify between the offenders and the victims. That’s because even those who were bullied yesterday can bully others today. Therefore, teenagers feel anxiety about the fact that they also don’t know what will happen to them tomorrow. Furthermore, now, it is not only a problem of teenagers but also a problem of adults. Bullying in office is also very serious.

The third session was about ‘Yooja Salon’ where those who could not return back to society after leaving from schools joined. Il-joo Jeon, a co-head of the salon, explained about three brain areas and said that human beings could think and create something after they made some relationship and built their presence. These relationship and presence are not learned through education but naturally learned from family and communities. However, according to his argument, families and communities were collapsed so the problem was caused. Currently, the entire Korean society shares the problem of ‘zero gravity’ and teenagers who cannot adapt themselves to the situation or breaking away from the reality just become lethargic. He concluded that we had to make a network of gravity which could make us find what we had missed because we had tried to achieve our goals within a very short period of time in a compressive manner.

I also added a few words as a moderator. Schools in Korea and Japan achieving so-called compression growth or Korean and Japan society are like pressure cookers and many people there are pressured so kids as well as adults feel pain. Is the pressure for what? It is said that the pressure is for efficiency but it is consistently suspicious who will be benefited in the end. I mentioned about it because I thought that we could be survived if we were less pressured by success and efficiency but it seemed we still believed in the myth of the pressure cooker.

Other than the following brief discussion, a deeper and more significant discussion was done through the following two meetings. Almost twenty experts gathered in the room 103 in the new building to talk about future exchanges and prospects and in the room 203, people discussed vivid stories that they could not share in the forum. However, what we discussed on that day is just a starting point. Expectedly, experts from more diverse areas, parents, and teachers will have in-depth discussion in the future.


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