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Nurse driven to suicide by bullying, says boyfriend

Feb 20,2018
The apparent suicide of a nurse from a top-tier hospital in Seoul last week generated buzz on local social media networks after a man who identified himself as her boyfriend claimed she was a victim of the nursing industry’s notorious “taeum” culture - senior nurses “burning the souls” of newcomers for as long as a year in rigid training.

Officers at the Songpa Police Precinct in southern Seoul said the nurse, whose name and workplace were withheld, was found dead last Thursday morning in the garden of an apartment complex she did not live in. No suicide note was discovered at the scene, but officers suspect she leaped to death from a high floor of an apartment building.

A man who claimed to have been dating her wrote Sunday on a Facebook community of nurses that he did not think she died from a “personal reason.” He said that what “pushed her off the cliff” was her hospital’s taeum culture, “something that was considered so reasonable among senior nurses there.”

Taeum in Korean means burn.

The hospital denied that bullying occurred, but said it was investigating. An officer at the Songpa Police Precinct said Monday it was planning to collect the victim’s laptop and cell phone to check for clues, while her coworkers will also be summoned for questioning.

“The senior nurses would only stop scolding me when I started crying,” a 32-year-old former nurse who worked at the same hospital told the JoongAng Ilbo.

A 27-year-old nurse who works at a different major hospital in Seoul said she was discriminated against due to her college’s reputation.

“Shortly after I got hired four years ago, I was told to keep myself low-key because I graduated from a university outside of Seoul,” said the nurse. “I used to get scolded in front of my patients.”

A 25-year-old nurse surnamed Kim, who was hired last year at a hospital, said it was part of her daily routine to hear comments like “You’re so pathetic. Don’t come within 2 meters [6.6 feet] of me,” and, “Go home early. It gets on my nerves just seeing you.”

Park, 30, a nurse who’s been working at a hospital in Seoul over the past five years, said she was once bullied by her seniors for getting pregnant too early. At her workplace, nurses had to “wait their turn” to carry a baby, so their maternity leaves didn’t overlap.

BY CHO HAN-DAE, KIM JEONG-YEON AND JEONG YONG-HWAN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]