Several elementary school teachers in Hamhung reported to authorities for “excessive bribes”

Several homeroom teachers demanded that parents pay KPW 60,000 per student for the maintenance of classrooms, research labs, and fences around the school

Several first-grade homeroom teachers at an elementary school in Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, were recently reported to the provincial department of education after asking parents for an excessive amount of money for classroom expenses. 

“Homeroom teachers at the Saemaul Elementary School in Hamhung took advantage of the new semester and the inflow of new students to have parents pay an enormous amount of money for what they called school and classroom expenses. Parents of new students who were outraged at such behavior reported it to the provincial education department,” a source in South Hamgyong Province told Daily NK on Apr. 15.

The school handed down homeroom teacher and classroom assignments for first-grade students in mid-March. Teachers then organized a parent committee to help manage various aspects of the school followed by the appointment of a committee chairperson, the source said.

During this process, the homeroom teachers demanded that the parents pay KPW 60,000 per student for the maintenance of classrooms, research labs, and fences around the school. 

“The homeroom teachers were bold enough to ask for such a large amount of money because the school is located in the center of a city with many wealthy residents involved in commercial activities. These teachers are used to receiving substantial financial support from parents who are eager to flatter teachers as they compete with one another for their children’s prestige,” the source said.

Parents were particularly outraged at the teachers for pre-selecting several students to serve as a discussant during a discussion session to be held during the school’s entrance ceremony. The pre-selection of students provoked a competitive bidding war among parents that forced them to pay more to the teachers for their own child to receive the honor. Ultimately, the teachers selected the child of the highest bidding household as the discussant. 

Angry parents then reported the teachers’ behavior to the provincial education department. The teachers in question were not dismissed; instead, they have been reassigned to teach general classes without being attached to a homeroom, the source said.

Furthermore, classes are expected to be reorganized as outraged parents are protesting against the school’s decision to separate classes based on the financial status of the students. 

“Parents and local residents are concerned that innocent young children are being emotionally hurt by their households’ financial situation. They are vehemently criticizing the money-grubbing school and the dishonorable actions of the teachers, complaining that they ‘don’t know where this society is headed,’” the source said.

Above all, people are voicing anger at the fact that groundless demands for money are coming not just from schools but from everywhere during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to the closure of the country’s borders along with the reduction in commercial activity due to falling supplies of goods.

Translated by Youngheon Kim. Edited by Robert Lauler.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jong So Yong is one of Daily NK's freelance reporters. Questions about her articles can be directed to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.