The Ministry of Education in South Korea dismissed a senior official for making derogatory comments about the public, including likening citizens to “dogs and pigs.”
Na Hyang-wook, 47, is officially in the doghouse after he went out for drinks with members of the press in Jongno, Seoul, and said, among other things, that 99 percent of South Koreans had no ability to move up in the society and could be treated like animals, according to Kyunghyang Shinmum, a South Korean left-of-center newspaper. Consequently, he called for a class system “because people are not all born equal.”
Na, who is the director of the Education Ministry’s policy bureau, didn’t just stop at disparaging his own countrymen. In his statement, he also said African-Americans and Hispanics should not even try to “go up to these high politics,” according to the South Korean news website.
When asked about his thoughts on the tragic Guui Station accident in which a 19-year-old worker subcontracted with Seoul Metro got hit by a train and killed while he was repairing a screen earlier this year, Na said people should stop pretending to care as if their own child was dead because it was hypocritical.
The astonishing remarks, coming from a senior member of the Education Department, are doubly insensitive, as South Koreans believe, like many other progressive nations, that education is the key to improving social mobility.
Na’s deprecating attitude towards anyone below the 1 percent elite highlights a growing insensitivity over class gaps in South Korea.
The ministry has apologized in behalf of Na and said his tactless words were a result of too much alcohol.
“We've decided to dismiss Lee to make him responsible for making inappropriate remarks that have severely dented the reputation of public servants and left a big scar on people's minds,” said Vice Education Minister Lee Young on Tuesday.
“Na deeply regrets what he said under the influence of alcohol,” Park Jun-seong, deputy director of the bureau, told The Korea Times. “I am so sorry that a moment's mistake determined his life even though he has also done many great deeds.”
After the incident, the ministry’s Facebook page has been flooded with angry remarks from visitors, one of which translates to, “How do you do? I’m a pig/dog.”
However, others say they always knew the government looked upon the public with condensation and that Na’s words only confirmed the public’s suspicions.
“It’s the fact that someone actually came out and said this that’s extraordinary, and what makes it so resonant,” said Sewoong Koo, managing editor of Korea Expose, a reporting and analysis website. “A lot of people suspect that this is how their government feels about them, but we almost never hear it. These comments confirm those suspicions.”
Na has not commented since the remarks were made public.