School takes flak for punishing student over defaming Korean band

By Manh Tung, Hoang Phong   November 12, 2019 | 08:02 am GMT+7
School takes flak for punishing student over defaming Korean band
K-Pop boyband BTS is one of South Korea's best known and most lucrative musical exports. Photo by AFP/Lisa O'Connor.

The Ngo Quyen Secondary School in HCMC has found itself in hot water over ‘offensive’ disciplinary actions against an eighth grader.

The boy, whose name has not been revealed, was forced to make a public apology last week in front of more than 2,000 students at the school for using ‘foul language’ to defame popular Korean music band BTS on Facebook.

Nguyen Ngoc Thu, vice principal of the school, captured the video of the boy reading a note of self-criticism letter in front of the whole school and posted it on social media in an act aiming to ‘calm down the public, especially fans of the K-pop boy band.’

However, Thu’s act has been severely criticized by the public, prompting top education officials to step in.

The HCMC Department of Education and Training has asked the school board to review the discipline procedure against the student. The department said that students cannot be disciplined based on public opinion, but must follow the education sector’s regulations.

"Making a student stand in the middle of a schoolyard to receive disciplinary action and then recording a video is very offensive," said Bui Thi Diem Thu, deputy director of HCMC Department of Education and Training.

Bui Van Linh, an official from the Ministry of Education and Training, said that the ministry has ordered the city education department to make a full report on the disciplinary procedures taken against the eight-grade student.

"Disciplining students must ensure the principle of respect and that they grow from their mistakes," Linh said.

Public outrage

Last June, the boy created a fanpage called "Anti BTS in Vietnam" and posted articles and photos of members of the boy band, using "inappropriate" language to criticize them, the school leaders said.

BTS is a highly popular South Korean boy band, known for their boyish good looks and meticulously choreographed dance moves. 

The controversial articles using "inappropriate language beyond the thinking of a secondary school student" and violating the Cybersecurity Law had outraged fans of the music band, prompting the school board to take disciplinary actions, vice principal Thu had said.

He said the boy’s behavior violated ethics, school rules as well as the law.

"Whether it's the BTS music band or anyone else, the use of social media to insult others is unacceptable," he said.

Thu added that publicizing the video was a way to soothe the anger of South Korean boy band’s fans. "As a teacher, I did so with the sole thought of protecting students without foreseeing the consequences. I'm sorry for leaving my emotions overwhelm my mind but at the time I didn't know what else to do," Thu said.

He admitted he had no experience handling media crises.

The discipline has received opposition from people in the education sector and the public at large.

Le Thu Huyen, a secondary school teacher in HCMC, said the boy is only 13 years old and not mature enough to fully understand the consequences of his actions and words.

He should receive advice and guidance rather than public punishment, she suggested.

A principal at another secondary school in the city, who wished to remain unnamed, said: "Forcing a child to read an apology letter in front of a whole school will leave psychological scars. His images will be spread and saved online, damaging his privacy."

A VnExpress reader, Trung Duong, also said the disciplining of a student is the school's duty, but distributing images and videos on social media is a serious violation of personal rights, affecting the future of students later. Even 10-15 years, more people can still find the video, he said.

"It’s an unacceptable disciplinary action of the school that could affect the boy and others psychologically," said another reader, Hoang Anh.

Screenshot from a video shared on Facebook shows an eight-grade boy at Ngo Quyen Secondary School in HCMC reading an apology in front of the school for defaming Korean band BTS on Facebook.

Screenshot from a video shared on Facebook shows an eight-grade boy at Ngo Quyen Secondary School in HCMC reading an apology in front of the school for defaming Korean band BTS on Facebook.

Ngo Quang Huy, a father in HCMC whose daughter is studying at a school nearby, said he believed the disciplinary action was too harsh and can leave the boy to feel resentful.

It could affect his studies, too, he said.

Facebook is the most popular social media in a country of 94 million people. Vietnam ranks seventh in the world in number of Facebook users with 58 million, or 75 percent of the population aged 13 or more, according to a report released in July by U.K. advertising agency We Are Social.

An average Vietnamese uses social media for two hours and 23 minutes a day, same as the global average, according to market research firm GlobalWebIndex.

Vietnam’s Cybersecurity Law, which took effect earlier this year, bans internet users from humiliating and seriously offending the honor, prestige and dignity of other people or posting false and untruthful information that damages the legal rights and interests of other organizations and individuals.

It also bans users from organizing, encouraging or training other people for anti-state purposes, distorting history, negating the nation’s revolutionary achievements, undermining national solidarity, offending religions and discriminating on the basis of gender and race.

 
 
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