Bullying-like Behaviours in South Korea: Terms used, Origins in Early Childhood, and Links to Moral Reasoning

Lee, Seung-ha. 2011. Bullying-like Behaviours in South Korea: Terms used, Origins in Early Childhood, and Links to Moral Reasoning. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

The present thesis investigated a phenomenon in South Korea, which corresponds to bullying with respect to terms, perceptions, origins and moral reasoning. These were examined by three main studies across various age-ranges.

Study 1 examined terms for and perceptions of bullying-like behaviours in South Korea using a qualitative approach, from young children to adults. Results showed that wang-ta was the term predominantly used to describe bullying-like behaviour in South Korea. Depending on types of aggression and participants’ ages, different terms emerged showing historical changes within a culture. 10-15 years old pupils used their own terms, different from wang-ta; and workplace personnel and 10-15 year old pupils showed negative attitudes towards victims.

Previous studies showed that bullying–like behaviours among young children differ in some ways from those of older children. Study 2 investigated bullying-like behaviours among 6 year olds in South Korea using peer, self, and teacher reports; and examined bullying roles in relation to various types of aggression and peer status. Results showed that depending on informants, bullying roles were nominated
differently; the role of aggressors showed higher consistency across informants than other roles. Relational victimisation was seen differently depending on informants.

One of the theories for why some people engage in bullying-like behaviours has focused on their moral understanding about aggressive behaviours. Study 3 investigated moral reasoning about aggressive behaviours in terms of types of aggression, age, gender, and experience of aggression. Sixty 7 year olds and ninety 11 year olds from South Korea participated. Results indicated that moral reasoning about aggressive behaviours differed by type of aggression and children’s age. Social exclusion was regarded as less wrong and less harmful than other types of aggressive behaviours. Gender differences were rarely found. The results are discussed in terms of pupils’ attitudes toward wang-ta in South Korea.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


bullying, south korea, wang-ta, aggression, terms, origins, moral reasoning

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



28 February 2011

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

13 Jan 2012 14:47

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:25



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