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Prominent Professor’s habitual violence to students

Sangmin Lee

A number of students submitted a petition to the administrators of Seoul National University (SNU)  titled, “A music university professor’s violence against students.”

Kim In-hye, one of the nation’s most popular sopranos and a professor at one of South Korea’s top school, is accused of alleged violent misdeeds. In the petition, students claimed that they had been habitually beaten by the professor, forced to sell her concert tickets, as well as bring her gifts. In addition, several students testified that Mrs. Kim demanded money tacitly labeled “tokens of gratitude.”

After SNU conducted a full investigation into the incident,  a none-member disciplinary committee decided to dismiss Professor Kim.

According to school authorities, Kim not only made about ten of her students sing at her mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party last October, but also ordered an assistant teacher to allow Kim the use of the school auditorium for her daughter’s practices when personal use of the space was prohibited.

However, Kim denied all such allegations, insisting that some of them were exaggerated. In an interview with a major newspaper, Kim said that her hot temper might have led her to frequently hit students on the head or back, but she did not consider these acts of violence. Moreover, she stressed that strict teaching methods is an essential part of vocal education and that most other teachers also used educational methods similar to hers.

In the area of art, apprenticeship education is a common method of teaching, so the relationship between teacher and student is very closely connected. But when looking at the inside of the system, the professor’s influence is enormously powerful. The future of the student often lies under the control of the professor, thus students have to show almost absolute obedience to the professor. “Professor Kim is a renowned vocal musician in Korea. Being her student ensures a strong foothold in becoming a successful musician. Therefore, not many would dare to raise such a problem,” said a graduate of SNU’s College of Music.

Education based on apprenticeship is a double-edged sword. It allows for the effective and accurate handing down of the teacher’s special skill or know-how to students; however, it often turns into a dominant-subordinate relationship. Additionally, if the relationship goes sour, things like this could happen. SNU plans to apply a ‘tutorial improvement plan’ to freshmen in order to resolve such problems, in which students can select their tutor after having experienced several professors.

The apprenticeship education has been in place for a long time. It was especially well-developed in Europe and Japan. The method itself might not be the problem, but the problem is a matter of how people use the system effectively. It’s time to think about a way to reinvent a desirable relationship between teachers and students in the world of music.

SNU Professor Kim In-Hye

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