President Park Geun-hye visited an elementary school Friday to conduct safety checks as part of her push to root out school violence amid public outrage over the recent suicide of a bullied teenager.
Upon arriving at Myungshin Elementary School in central Seoul, Park headed first to the staff room where she monitored footage from CCTVs and asked about the school's other safety measures, including emergency alarm bells.
Her visit came days after a 15-year-old high school student jumped to his death from his 23rd-floor apartment home in the southeastern city of Gyeongsan. He left a suicide note saying he had constantly suffered from beatings and other abuses by five peers since 2011.
"School violence has become a serious issue, and although it's important to install CCTVs, what's essential is that we shift away from excessive competition to character-building and creative education," Park said in a meeting with education officials, school teachers and members of the school community.
"Right now, students are so focused on their college entrance exams that they have no time to think about what they like. If they could be free from worries about school work and exams, and allowed to try out the things they like ... if they concentrate on that, they won't have time to bully others," she said.
Teaching more sports would be one effective way to reduce school violence as exercise is known to improve mental health and spur creative thinking, she added.
Park also visited a first-grade classroom and encouraged students to follow their dreams, saying it is her own dream to see students studying happily and reaching toward their goals.
"I believe education played a large role in our country's development," Park said at the meeting, adding that now, the country's education system must change to allow students to each develop their own talents.
"Only then will our students be happy and our future competitiveness rise."