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Korean student murders his mother because of his test scores

Korean kids are under a lot of stress and most people who have lived in Korea for even a short time know just how demanding a Korean mother can be when it comes to grades.  Score a 96% and mom will ask why you weren’t able to do better.  Score 100% – mom will demand to know how many other students got a perfect score.  There never seems to be any way to please them.  I guess this student just couldn’t take it any more and stabbed her to death.  It is really sad because his grades were actually quite good.

According to police, Park kept telling her son that he must enter a top-class university and should rank first in nationwide exams. When he obtained lower scores than her expectations, she didn’t give him food or forced him to stay awake at night to study.

Being afraid of her scolding, Ji had fabricated grade reports since middle school. His fear grew as his test scores fell after entering high school.

“The student said his mother was supposed to visit his teacher, and he was afraid she might find out that he fabricated his nationwide test grade to 62nd from 4,000th and inflict severe corporal punishment on him,” a police officer said, adding 4,000th was still within the top 1 percent of all students.

You can read the rest of the story here – Korea Times.

  • df

    Was it in self defense, did he kill his mother while she was in the act of beating him with the bat or club?

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    4000th in the country is hardly “quite good”. Three digits and we will talk.

  • bumfromkorea

    @TK
    And the fact that 4000th in the country would not be considered “quite good” by the society really demonstrates the darkest side of the South Korean education system (… well, one of the darkest side).

  • YangachiBastardo

    What’s the cut line to make it into SKY ?

    And also how can they differentiate between say the 935th best student and the 936th ?

    I mean considering the Korean student population if i’m correct is around 600k for each grade i expect a fairly Gaussianesque distribution around grades, with tons of students with exactly the same score at each leavel

  • http://www.biblegateway.com setnaffa

    Well, it seems pretty clear that the mom’s actions made her son lie and eventually break. But wholesale attacks on the rest of Korea, even those made by TK, are out of line.

    There are millions of Korean families that have the same pressures and only one such murder.

    Perhaps we should all look at our own motivations and how we view our careers, our families, our friends?

  • Charles Tilly

    …4,000th was still within the top 1 percent of all students.

    I don’t know what the financial situation was for this student’s family (or his English abilities for that matter), but given that he was within the top 1% of all students, I would think that he could have found a place at one of the top notch universities or colleges in the United States.

    This is actually what is occurring with Indian students unable to get into top school in their home country.

  • Charles Tilly

    Edit: This is actually what is occurring with very good (but apparently not “good” enough) Indian students unable to get into the top schools in their home country.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    And the fact that 4000th in the country would not be considered “quite good” by the society really demonstrates the darkest side of the South Korean education system (… well, one of the darkest side).

    I have many criticisms of Korean education system, but its drive toward achievement is not one. Koreans constantly drive their children to be better than they are now, and that’s a good thing.

  • bumfromkorea

    @TK
    But the competition to be better has grotesquely mutated into how many hours or hagwons a kid must spend studying/attend. Driving kids to be better is one thing, the current way the Korean society is using to ‘drive kids to be better’ is quite another. What you see as a positive, I think, has been devolved into something else entirely.

    I think the ‘overachiever’ archetype in the American school system ought to be the ideal mean. They work really hard, study hard, and become successful people… Bottom line is, kids shouldn’t be googling for ways to successfully curb your sleep pattern to only 3 hours a day. Sleep deprivation is stupid, inefficient, and extremely unhealthy.

  • Angusmack

    @TK.

    So….top 1% in the nation is hardly quite good? Wow. You seem to see something admirable in the pyscho-bitch, er, mommy, I see a plot for a horror movie, ready for summer 2012.

  • http://josephjsteinberg.wordpress.com/ Hume’s Bastard

    The deeper tragedy is a situation where women and children are pitted against each other for the scraps. Women don’t have security for their retirement years, so they rely on male children to kick back pay during their lifetimes. At least there’s national health care ad an education culture in Korea though. There isn’t the need to push teenage sons out into the workforce before they graduate high school, to start earning for the family. But, still, this episode dramatizes the ugliness quite succinctly. Calling this women psycho implies it’s her fault for playing the role of the economical mother. At least there’s a perception that the student deserves better than studying at all hours. We are part of the tragedy too.

  • YangachiBastardo

    Concur Hume (sorta) and let me add that it’s good to drive your kids to give their best but parents should also be realistic in assessing their kids talent, not everybody can be taller than the average and not everybody can be in the top 1%

  • Charles Tilly

    So….top 1% in the nation is hardly quite good? Wow. You seem to see something admirable in the pyscho-bitch, er, mommy, I see a plot for a horror movie, ready for summer 2012.

    I didn’t want to say it first. Glad someone stepped up, however. Yeah, at the very least I found that to be one of TK’s more stranger comments. I mean, of all the things to say why that?

    Also, don’t if this interview with Emanuel Pastreich got any play here at the MH. If not, I thought I’d put up some of what Dr. Pastreich said about education in Korea:

    기득권이 주는 편안한 삶을 포기하고 한국에 와서 한국 여자와 결혼해 1남1녀를 둔 에마누엘 페스트라이쉬 교수를 9월24일 서울 합정동의 한 카페에서 만났다. 만나자마자 “제 아이들도 모두 국제학교가 아닌 한국 학교에 보내고 있다. 그런 점에서 유학을 선호하고, ‘한 시간 더 공부하면 (미래) 남편의 연봉이 달라진다’고 생각하는 한국 교육은 큰 문제”라며 가족 얘기로 말문을 열었다……

    [Interviewer's question, ed.]교육 분야에서도 양극화가 진행 중이다. 요즘은 예전처럼 ‘개천에서 용 나는’ 시대는 지났다고 한다. 한국 교육이 지닌 문제점도 많다.

    “개인적으로는 어릴 때부터 열심히 공부해야 한다고 생각했다. 부모님은 그런 말씀을 하시지 않았지만, TV를 보시지 않고 책을 열심히 읽으셨다. 내 생각에는 부모님 수준이 높아야 아이들이 따라 한다고 생각한다. 엄마가 특히 책을 많이 읽어야 하고, 아이들에게 질문과 토론을 이끌어내는 것이 필요하다. 내 부모님도 그러했다. 나는 열 살 때 부모님과 정치, 경제, 사회, 문화 등에 대해 다양한 대화를 했다. 한국의 부모님들도 그렇게 했으면 좋겠다. 부모님들이 아이들을 이끌어야 한다. 교육은 단순하게 ‘빨리빨리’보다 단위를 측정할 수 있게 하는 것이 더 중요하다. 한국 교육이 지닌 문제점은 시험에서 몇 점을 받는지가 중요하다는 것이다. 계량화된 정보에 의존한다. 이는 정보화 시대로 가는데 가장 큰 걸림돌이다. 정보화 시대에서는 그 무엇도 100점으로 계산할 수 없다. 그런데도 그렇게 한다. 단순히 겉모습만 보지 말고 깊이와 넓이를 고민해야 한다. 물론 그 어떤 대상을 정의하는 방정식이 있다면 100점을 받을 수 있을 것이다.”

  • Granfalloon

    Good test scores, ability to deceive AND he’s willing to kill his own mother. I predict a bright career for this young man.

  • cmxc

    No sympathy for murder — despite the abusive circumstances, it simply cannot be condoned.
    I remember a few years ago there was a girl admitted to my alma mater but her admission was rescinded after the admissions committee learned that she had murdered her mother.
    http://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/08/us/woman-who-killed-mother-denied-harvard-admission.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

    Many fellow graduates have since moved on to ‘murder’ the financial system by working in Government and in Investment Banks, but matricide simply cannot be tolerated.

  • Avaast

    @6, 13

    Thank you Mr. Tilly for those interesting articles, particularly the one concerning the problems Indian students face. Regarding Mr. Pastreich’s ‘children see, children do’ argument, I can kind of see where he’s coming from, although I feel that this sort of approach to child-rearing might run the risk of turning the children into excellent dinner party hosts and charades players rather than turning them into dedicated (or, as I nearly just wrote, dessicated) scholars. Clearly, there are other factors at work, but it’s a position worth reflecting on. It would certainly make raising children more interesting!

  • jd

    @thekorean

    Are they driving their kids to be better, or are they driving them to get better grades?

    Are those the same thing?

  • http://dok.do/4lur41 Apodyopsis Gymnophoria

    So, its November.

    He murdered his mother 8 months ago (in March, 2011) – when his last year of High School was just beginning.

    He his her dead body for 8 months – without anyone catching on to the smell.

    No father???? No relatvies?? Didn’t go visit the family for Chuseok??

    No brother/sisters??

    no curious neighbours??

    He managed to take good care of himself all year by himself, took care of bills, utilities etc, and still managed to finish High school and get into the TOP 1%.

    I think he is a genius!
    I think

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    I have many criticisms of Korean education system, but its drive toward achievement is not one. Koreans constantly drive their children to be better than they are now, and that’s a good thing.

    Amen to that.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    It’s pointless to draw conclusions when no one knows what really happened. I suspect that someone who’s capable of keeping a decomposing body for nine months is also capable of imagining all sorts of things and acting on them.

  • wiessej

    to thekorean –

    I hardly think that the news article was criticizing parents’ involvement in making sure their children work hard to excel. What it is criticizing is the “at all costs” attitude and the abuse that occurs en route to that end. No doubt parents should be involved in their children’s education, but beating them, denying them food and water, and depriving them of sleep are unfortunately too close to the fringe of what is common treatment of children in Korean society. In the movie “Misery” Kathy Bates was merely “driving” James Caan to be a better writer. You would certainly find SOMEthing acceptable in her character’s hobbling of James Caan when she strapped his ankles to a 4×4 piece of wood and broke his feet with a sledge hammer – after all, she was just trying to drive him to be better.

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    Good test scores, ability to deceive AND he’s willing to kill his own mother. I predict a bright career for this young man.

    He’s perfect for our law firm. Does he speak English?

  • http://vmphotography.com.au hoju_saram

    I have many criticisms of Korean education system, but its drive toward achievement is not one. Koreans constantly drive their children to be better than they are now, and that’s a good thing.

    Agreed. On the other hand, there is such a thing as driving kids too far, and I’m not sure I agree with depriving them of things that will probably help them develop socially and physically as well.

    Case in point: back in the day in Korea, I taught rich kids in rich homes a few hours a week. One kid I taught was 11. He was forced to study until 1am, then had to get up at 6am every day. He was under so much pressure from his parents that he eventually developed shingles and had a sort of nervous breakdown. His mother was a child psychologist (or psychiatrist, can’t remember which).

    I’m sure the kid will get his coveted place in med school, but I’m not sure he’ll be emotionally and mentally healthy for the rest of his life.

  • http://coryinkorea.wordpress.com/ 코리아

    Pushing a kid to be the best they can be is far different than pushing them to be the best test score. I’m all for involved parenting and providing motivation to succeed, but there is a line and it is a line frequently crossed in this country. The key point is that it can only hurt this society in the long-run (equally as much as an overly permissive and “caring” society can) and it’s simple willful blindness to say otherwise.

  • megook

    SON, I AM DISAPPOINT.

    WHY SECOND DEGREE MURDER

    AND NOT FIRST DEGREE MURDER?

  • feld_dog

    hahahahahaha
    Good one, megook.
    Wish I’d thoughta that one.

  • http://coryinkorea.wordpress.com/ 코리아

    This really might wind up being the strange story of the year. Kid killed her in March, let her rot in the room and sealed the door up with glue when the smell was becoming too bad. Only got discovered when the estranged father came back after walking out on the family 5 years ago…( gee I’m sure that had no psychological effects on the family).

  • http://josephjsteinberg.wordpress.com/ Hume’s Bastard

    #8:

    What exactly do you mean by “better”? I tell students “good” is an adjective that’s good for nothing except hiding your opinion. Give me a real word – attractive, glib, conforming, well-rounded, etc., I always say.

    I would also point out, that globalization has reached both secondary and tertiary levels of schooling. Test scores seems to be the default criterion by which administrators have decided students around the world should be evaluated because test scores apparently are self-evidently indicative of something and translate across countries and schools. Universities seem to have decided profit is the criterion of evaluation across borders. University success impacts secondary school performance, because test scores and grades can be converted to bullet points in a brochure or donor pitch – again what do they really indicate?

  • Seth Gecko

    Lol Megook, Jesus that was funny!

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  • milton

    The first thing I would point out here is that a sample of n=1 does not make for good generalizations. While Korean parents are (in)famous for pushing their kids to achieve scholastically, this case is clearly an extreme exception and not the rule, and thus we can’t use it to condemn Korean attitudes toward achievement any more than we can use the example of a mentally deranged  gunman justifying his actions by citing political rhetoric to condemn an ideology or movement. 

    Second, I would point out that the stereotype about Korean parents as ruthless achievement-pushers is of limited usefulness from an inductive perspective. YB is right to point out that the pattern of grades follows a Gaussian (normal) distribution. This means that 50% of Koreans score below average! But note that we don’t see 50% of Korean parents disowning their kids,or beating them, or what-have-you (which is what we’d expect to see if the generalization were cogent). Korean families remain cohesive units despite the “underachievement” of half of all students. 

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    Was it in self defense

    Wouldn’t matter. Self-defense is not a valid defense.

  • Darth Babaganoosh

    ^ (in Korea)

  • Granfalloon

    Well put Milton. However, the statistics on student suicide are far more reliable. I’d love to do some game theory work in determining the “acceptable” values for the following: If you could enroll your child in a tutoring program that would increase his GPA by x but also increase his likelyhood of committing suicide by y, would you do so?

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    [W]e can’t use it to condemn Korean attitudes toward achievement any more than we can use the example of a mentally deranged gunman justifying his actions by citing political rhetoric to condemn an ideology or movement.

    Not so fast. Today I saw Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ husband, astronaut Mark Kelly, and Piers Morgan on CNN continuing to propagate the blood libel of Gov. Sarah Palin and her “target” graphics as the inspiration for the lunatic who shot Giffords. Jared Loughner, the deranged gunman in question, spouted left-wing political rhetoric — and still it’s Sarah Palin’s fault. Are we sure she’s not also responsible for this Korean kid’s actions? Did they find any tea bags in the house?

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    Milton (#30) asserted: “Korean families remain cohesive units despite the ‘underachievement’ of half of all students.”

    Yeah, but that half have all been fabricating their grade reports since middle school, as well as their recent, nationwide test grades.

    I just hope their parents don’t find out — there are too many orphans already . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://josephjsteinberg.wordpress.com/ Hume’s Bastard

    Good point, #33.

    And, considering the 11.9% unemployment rate for men, what is he future for this next generation? Is this a one-off phenomenon? What will be the consequence of a generation that is starting later and whose family is already indebted? This wretch is just the tip of the iceberg, and little different from the monsters of ’97.

  • Koreansentry

    This idiot should rot in jail or put to death penalty.

  • McGenghis

    The simple math is there. If driving 100% of the kids in the country to be the 1% is seen as possible, you either end up with a dissatisfied populace or a land of delusional kumbaya.

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  • adsfadsf

    pathetic koreans

  • Xres625e

    sterven

  • dd55625

    sterven..

  • Josh West

    Good, dumb bitch deserved it.