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A hagwon is a private cram school prevalent in South Korea. For families that can afford it, hagwon education usually starts at or before elementary level. It is common for Korean school children to attend one or more hagwons after their school. [1]

It is not uncommon for students to be enrolled in several hagwons of different subject areas at once (in addition to their normal school attendance). Hagwons may specialize in subjects like math, foreign language, science, art, or English. Hagwons offering integrated instruction in several subject areas are also common. These are known as soksem hagwon at the elementary level, and ipsi hagwon at the middle-school level. High-school, college and adult students attend gosi hagwon, which are typically focused on preparation for specific civil service examinations.

One example of a well-known hagwon is the Seoul Language Institute. The competition for college admissions in South Korea is usually fierce, and as a result, hagwons can sometimes assign large amounts of homework to students.

Like in many Korean public schools, discipline is sometimes administered with extra amounts of work assigned, as well as corporal punishment, if students fail a test or do not complete their homework.

Hagwon is sometimes used to describe similar institutions operated by Korean Americans in the United States.




[edit] Native-speaker instructors

Many native English-speakers are hired to teach at English-language institutes in Korea, referred to as ‘English hagwons’. The requirements for such teaching positions typically include a 4-year university degree, citizenship in an English-speaking country, and the ability to sign a contract for one year. In return, the institute often provides an instructor with a monthly salary, round-trip airfare from his or her country of origin, a rent-free apartment for the duration of the instructor’s contract, and an additional one month “severance pay” at the completion of the contract.

Many recruiting companies exist to hire native English speakers for Korean hagwons. Some are based in the US and Canada, while others are Korean-owned. While some of these recruiting companies provide decent services, many of them have earned a reputation of being shady and willing to lie and even fabricate diplomas to get teachers to go work in Korea.[2]

English hagwons frequently experience staff problems and conflicts between the Korean staff/management and the foreign teachers. While many Korean managers are unable to manage non-Korean teachers appropriately, there are conversely just as many foreigners who are unable to adapt to the new work and cultural environment or are simply inexperienced teachers. Although no statistics exist as to how many schools experience such problems, there are many blacklists advocating one of the opposing points of view. Many problems also occur between the visiting teachers themselves, many of whom often come from radically different backgrounds. Clashes due to these personal differences occasionally arise, sometimes exacerbated by culture shock from living in a foreign country.[3]

There are also teaching opportunities in neighboring countries such as China, Japan and Taiwan. Apart from Japan, the average salary in these countries, however, tends to be lower than in South Korea. [4]

Salaries are typically higher in larger cities, but so too is the cost of living. [5]

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ US Embassy Information on Hagwons and Teaching in South Korea, retrieved Sept 14, 2006
  2. ^ How to get a teaching job in Korea, retrieved Jan 28, 2007
  3. ^ Teach Korea NZ, retrieved Sept 14, 2006
  4. ^ Transitions Abroad – Teaching English in South Korea, retrieved Sept 14, 2006
  5. ^ Teaching English in Korea – Canadian Consular Affairs, retrieved Sept 14, 2006

Education in South Korea

In South Korea, education is highly regarded and very competitive. A centralized administration oversees the process for the education of children from kindergarten to third grade high school. Mathematics, science, Korean, social studies, and English are generally considered to be the most important subjects. Sometimes physical education is not considered important as it is not regarded to be education and therefore many schools lack high-quality gymnasiums and varsity athletics. South Korea was the first country in the world to provide high-speed internet access from every primary, junior, and high school. [1]

The school year is divided into two semesters. The first begins in the beginning of March and ends in mid-July; the second begins in late August and ends in mid-February. The schedules are not rigidly standardized, however, and can vary from school to school.




[edit] Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development is responsible for South Korean education. It was renamed by the former Ministry of education, who enhanced its function in 2001 because the administration of Kim Dae-jung considered education and human resources development as a matter of the highest priority. As a result of the reform, it began to cover the whole field of human resource development and the minister of education was appointed to the Vice Prime Minister.

Like other ministers, the Minister of Education and Human Resources Development is appointed by the president. They are mainly chosen from candidates who have an academic background and often resign in a fairly short term (around one year).

[edit] Kindergarten

Kindergarten in South Korea is composed of children from ages three to five. Most children do not attend “preschool” but are lumped together in a kindergarten class with other children who may be within a three years age difference. When the child reaches about six years of age he/she is systematically moved on to the first year of elementary school. From kindergarten to high school, matriculating through the grade levels is not determined on knowledge, grades or passing of any tests, but is based purely upon the students age. Enrollment in kindergartens or preschools expanded impressively during thethe 1980s. In 1980 there were 66,433 children attending 901 kindergartens or preschools. By 1987 there were 397,020 children in 7,792 institutions. The number of kindergarten and preschool teachers rose from 3,339 to 11,920 during the same period. The overwhelming majority of these teachers–approximately 92 percent–were women. This growth was attributable to several factors: Ministry of Education encouragement of preschool education, the greater number of women entering the work force, growth in the number of nuclear families where a grandparent was often unavailable to take care of children, and the feeling that kindergarten might give children an “edge” in later educational competition. Kindergartens often paid homage to the expectations of parents with impressive graduation ceremonies, complete with diplomas, academic camhumps, and gowns.

[edit] Primary education

In the late 1980s, primary schools were coeducational, although coeducation was quite rare at the middle-school and high-school levels. Enrollment figures for 1987 on the primary school level were 4,771,722 pupils in 6,531 schools, with 130,142 teachers. A decline from the 1980 figure of 5,658,002 pupils was caused by population trends. Some 54 percent of primary school teachers were male.

Elementary school consists of grades one to six. Students learn subjects including, but not limited to, Korean, mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, fine arts, and music. Usually, the homeroom teacher covers most of the subjects; however, there are some specialized teachers in professions such as physical education and foreign languages, including English.

Elementary schools are called 초등학교 (初等學校,chodeung-hakgyo), meaning elementary school. The South Korean government changed its name to the current form from 국민학교 (國民學校, gukmin hakgyo), meaning citizens’ school in 1996. This was done as a gesture of restoring national pride, due to the negatively charged notions of the word (국민학교 was abbreviated from 황국신민의 학교 (皇國臣民의 學校/皇国臣民の学校), which means school for the subjects of the imperial state) carried over from Japanese colonial rule.

[edit] Secondary education

In 1987 there were approximately 4,895,354 students enrolled in middle schools and high schools, with approximately 150,873 teachers. About 69 percent of these teachers were male. The secondary-school enrollment figure also reflected changing population trends–there were 3,959,975 students in secondary schools in 1979. Given the importance of entry into higher education, the majority of students attended general or academic high schools in 1987: 1,397,359 students, or 60 percent of the total, attended general or academic high schools, as compared with 840,265 students in vocational secondary schools. Vocational schools specialized in a number of fields: primarily agriculture, fishery, commerce, trades, merchant marine, engineering, and the arts.

Competitive entrance examinations at the middle-school level were abolished in 1968. Although as of the late 1980s, students still had to pass noncompetitive qualifying examinations, they were assigned to secondary institutions by lottery, or else by location within the boundary of the school district. Secondary schools, formerly ranked according to the quality of their students, have been equalized, with a portion of good, mediocre, and poor students being assigned to each one. The reform, however, did not equalize secondary schools completely. In Seoul, students who performed well in qualifying examinations were allowed to attend better quality schools in a “common” district, while other students attended schools in one of five geographical districts. The reforms applied equally to public and private schools whose enrollments were strictly controlled by the Ministry of Education.

Middle schools are called 중학교 (中學校,jung hakgyo), which means middle school. High schools are called 고등학교(高等學校, godeung hakgyo), meaning “high-level school.”

[edit] High school

High schools in South Korea teach students from first grade (age 15) to third grade (age 17), and students commonly graduate at age 18. As in middle school, students stay in their homerooms and are not tracked by ability. A student may choose, however, the class he or she wishes to take for liberal arts. High schools in Korea may also have subject specialty tracks. For example, university-bound students may choose to go to an academic science or foreign language specialty high school; while other students may choose a vocational track high school which emphasizes agriculture, commerce, or another technical curriculum. The art track is another popular route many aspiring artists take. Specializing in anything from Korean traditional music to drama, they serve as the alma mater of many of today’s most famous celebrities. It is not abnormal for many students to arrive home from school at midnight. The curriculum is rigorous, and many students attend private academies called 학원 (學院, pronounced hagwons) as supplements to boost academic performance.

High school is not strictly mandatory. However, according to a 2005 study of OECD member countries, some 97% of South Korea’s young adults do complete high school. This was the highest percentage recorded in any country. [2]

[edit] After-school classes

A large number of privately-owned institutions (hagwon/학원/學院) exist in order to provide after-school instruction in various subjects. As the university entrance examination is such an important factor in education, many parents spend a significant portion of their income to send their children to these institutes in order to prepare them for the exam. Although theoretically these private institutions are subject to the regulation of the Korean Ministry of Education, this system of private schools is often criticized for having little or no actual oversight, and many schools operate with sub-standard conditions. Many also worry that the existence of these schools allows wealthier parents to purchase better education for their children.

Private tutors have also become popular in recent years. Students who attend top-tier universities are the tutors of choice for many parents.

[edit] English education

English is taught as a required subject from the third year of elementary school up to high school, including most universities, with the goal of performing well on the TOEIC and TOEFL, which are tests of reading, listening and grammar-based English. For students who achieve high scores, there is also a speaking evaluation.

With the recent changes to the TOEFL subject areas tested, many Koreans are heavily focusing on their speaking ability in English given the higher importance placed on this skill by universities for effective communication.

Most universities, schools, including public schools and hagwons, hire exclusively US and Canadian foreign teachers for their English education programs. While also employing other Caucasian English speakers (British, Irish, South African, Australians, and New Zealanders) at academies and institutes, Korean education recognises that English is the global language.

[edit] Post-secondary education

Main articles: List of colleges and universities in South Korea, Category:Vocational education in South Korea

Many students who complete high school education apply to be accepted in South Korea’s various universities and technical colleges. There are many national universities as well as private universities. National universities are supported by the government and are usually regarded as providing better education than private ones. There are 10 major national universities in South Korea, which are taking a leading role on higher education in each metropolitan area or provinces as well as many other national universities. However, most of prestigious private universities are mainly located in Seoul with few exceptions. The acronym SKY is often used to indicate the three most prestigious and highly desired universities in Korea: Seoul National University, Korea University, and Yonsei University. Admissions into the “SKY” schools have traditionally been so competitive that a degree from one of the schools used to be regarded as a ticket to success and honor in Korean society.([3]) Other well-known universities include other leading national universities like Pusan National University, Kyungpook National University, highly recognized engineering institutes like Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) ,Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), in addition to several private universities located in Seoul such as Sogang University, Ewha Womans University, Hanyang University, Sungkyunkwan University and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

[edit] University entrance examinations

Korea retains many aspects of the Joseon Dynasty and Japanese education systems, the most influential of which is probably the use of entrance examinations to determine eligibility to attend the highest-level universities. The entrance examinations test most subjects taught in school, including math, science, English, history, and economics. From an early age, students prepare to take the university entrance examination, and the curriculum of most schools is determined by the content of the entrance examination to a large extent. In addition, many parents enroll their children in cram schools from an early age—many as early as elementary school.

In the late 1980s, the university a South Korean high school graduate attended was perhaps the single most important factor in determining his or her life chances. Thus, entrance into a prestigious institution was the focus of intense energy, dedication, and self-sacrifice. Prestigious institutions including National institutes like Seoul National University, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), Chonbuk National University, Pusan National University, Kyungpook National University, and a handful of private institutions such as Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), Korea University, Yonsei University, Ajou University, Sogang University, Hanyang University, Ewha Womans University, Sungkyunkwan University, Inha University and Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

Because college entrance depends upon ranking high in objectively graded examinations, high school students face an “examination hell”, a harsh regiment of endless cramming and rote memorization of facts that is incomparably severe. Unlike the Confucian civil service examinations of the Choson Dynasty, their modern reincarnation is a matter of importance not for an elite, but for the substantial portion of the population with middle-class aspirations. In the late 1980s, over one-third of college-age men and women (35.2 percent in 1989) succeeded in entering and attending institutions of higher education; those who failed faced dramatically reduced prospects for social and economic advancement.

The number of students in higher education had risen from 100,000 in 1960 to 1.3 million in 1987, and the proportion of college-age students in higher-education institutions was second only to the United States. The institutions of higher education included regular four-year colleges and universities, two-year junior vocational colleges, four-year teachers’ colleges, and graduate schools. The main drawback was that college graduates wanted careers that would bring them positions of leadership in society, but there simply were not enough positions to accommodate all graduates each year and many graduates were forced to accept lesser positions. Ambitious women especially were frustrated by traditional barriers of sex discrimination as well as the lack of positions.

Because tests given in high school (generally once every two or four weeks) were almost as important in determining college entrance as the final entrance examinations, students had no opportunity to relax from the study routine. According to one contemporary account, a student had to memorize 60 to 100 pages of facts to do well on these periodic tests. It’s not uncommon to see students walking home from their studies at very late hours (still dressed in their high school uniforms). Family and social life generally were sacrificed to the supreme end of getting into the best university possible.

Examinations are very serious times of the year and they change the whole pattern of society. In the days leading up to exams, newspapers post articles asking girls not to wear perfume or high heeled shoes to the examinations as these are seen to be distracting. Businesses often start at 10 am to accommodate parents who have helped their children study late into the night and on the evenings before exams recreational facilities, such as tennis clubs, close early to facilitate study for these exams.

The costs of the “examination hell” have been evident not only in a grim and joyless adolescence for many, if not most, young South Koreans, but also in the number of suicides caused by the constant pressure of tests. Often suicides have been top achievers who despaired after experiencing a slump in test performance. Also, the multiple choice format of periodic high school tests and university entrance examinations has left students little opportunity to develop their creative talents. A “facts only” orientation has promoted a cramped and unspontaneous view of the world that has tended to spill over into other areas of life than academic work.

The prospects for basic change in the system–a deemphasis on tests–were unlikely in the late 1980s. The great virtue of facts-based testing is its objectivity. Though harsh, the system is believed to be fair and impartial. The use of nonobjective criteria such as essays, personal recommendations, and the recognition of success in extracurricular activities or personal recommendations from teachers and others could open up all sorts of opportunities for corruption. In a society where social connections are extremely important, connections rather than merit might determine entry into a good university. Students who survive the numbing regimen of examinations under the modern system are at least universally acknowledged to have deserved their educational success. Top graduates who have assumed positions of responsibility in government and business have lent, through their talents, legitimacy to the whole system.

[edit] History

Like other East Asian countries with a Confucian heritage, South Korea has had a long history of providing formal education. Although there was no state-supported system of primary education, the central government established a system of secondary schools in Seoul and the provinces during the Choson Dynasty. State schools suffered a decline in quality, however, and came to be supplanted in importance by the sowon, private academies that were the centers of a neo-Confucian revival in the sixteenth century. Students at both private and state-supported secondary schools were exempt from military service and had much the same social prestige as university students enjoy today in South Korea. Like modern students, they were frequently involved in politics. Higher education was provided by the Confucian national university in the capital, the Songgyungwan. Its enrollment was limited to 200 students who had passed the lower civil service examinations and were preparing for the higher examinations.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, modern private schools were established both by Koreans and by foreign Christian missionaries. The latter were particularly important because they promoted the education of women and the diffusion of Western social and political ideas. Japanese educational policy after 1910 was designed to turn Koreans into obedient colonial subjects and to teach them limited technical skills. A state university modeled on Tokyo Imperial University was established in Seoul in 1923, but the number of Koreans allowed to study there never exceeded 40 percent of its enrollment; 60 percent of its students were Japanese expatriates.

When United States military forces occupied the southern half of the Korean Peninsula in 1945, they established a school system based on the American model: six years of primary school, six years of secondary school (divided into junior and senior levels), and four years of higher education. Other occupation period reforms included coeducation at all levels, popularly elected school boards in local areas, and compulsory education up to the ninth grade. The government of Syngman Rhee reversed many of these reforms after 1948, when only primary schools remained in most cases coeducational and, because of a lack of resources, education was compulsory only up to the sixth grade. The school system in 1990, however, reflects that which was established under the United States occupation.

During the years when Rhee and Park Chung Hee were in power, the control of education was gradually taken out of the hands of local school boards and concentrated in a centralized Ministry of Education. In the late 1980s, the ministry was responsible for administration of schools, allocation of resources, setting of enrollment quotas, certification of schools and teachers, curriculum development (including the issuance of textbook guidelines), and other basic policy decisions. Provincial and special city boards of education still existed. Although each board was composed of seven members who were supposed to be selected by popularly elected legislative bodies, this arrangement ceased to function after 1973. Subsequently, school board members were approved by the minister of education.

Most observers agree that South Korea’s spectacular progress in modernization and economic growth since the Korean War is largely attributable to the willingness of individuals to invest a large amount of resources in education: the improvement of “human capital.” The traditional esteem for the educated man, originally confined to the Confucian scholar as a cultured generalists, now extend to scientists, technicians, and others working with specialized knowledge. Highly educated technocrats and economic planners could claim much of the credit for their country’s economic successes since the 1960s. Scientific professions were generally regarded as the most prestigious by South Koreans in the 1980s.

Statistics demonstrate the success of South Korea’s national education programs. In 1945 the adult literacy rate was estimated at 22 percent; by 1970 adult literacy was 87.6 percent, and by the late 1980s various sources estimated it at around 93 percent. South Korean students have performed exceedingly well in international competitions in mathematics and science. Although only primary school (grades one through six) was compulsory, percentages of age-groups of children and young people enrolled in primary, secondary, and tertiary level schools were equivalent to those found in industrialized countries, including Japan. Approximately 4.8 million students in the eligible age-group were attending primary school in 1985. The percentage of students going on to optional middle school the same year was more than 99 percent. Approximately 34 percent, one of the world’s highest rates of secondary-school graduates attended institutions of higher education in 1987, a rate similar to Japan’s (about 30 percent) and exceeding Britain’s (20 percent).

Government expenditure on education has been generous. In 1975 it was W220 billion, the equivalent of 2.2 percent of the gross national product, or 13.9 percent of total government expenditure. By 1986 education expenditure had reached won 3.76 trillion, or 4.5 percent of the GNP, and 27.3 percent of government budget allocations.

[edit] Student activism

Student activism has a long and honorable history in Korea. Students in Choson Dynasty secondary schools often became involved in the intense factional struggles of the scholarofficial class. Students played a major role in Korea’s independence movement, particularly the March 1, 1919, countrywide demonstrations that were harshly suppressed by the Japanese military police. Students protested against the Rhee and Park regimes during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. Observers noted, however, that while student activists in the past generally embraced liberal and democratic values, the new generation of militants in the 1980s were far more radical. Most participants have adopted some version of the minjung ideology that was heavily influenced by Marxism, Western dependency theory, and Christian “liberation theology”, but was also animated by strong feelings of popular nationalism and xenophobia.

The most militant university students, perhaps about 5 percent of the total enrollment at Seoul National University and comparable figures at other institutions in the capital during the late 1980s, were organized into small circles or cells rarely containing more than fifty members. Police estimated that there were seventy-two such organizations of varying orientation.

[edit] Reforms in the 1980s

Following the assumption of power by General Chun Doo Hwan in 1980, the Ministry of Education implemented a number of reforms designed to make the system more fair and to increase higher education opportunities for the population at large. In a very popular move, the ministry dramatically increased enrollment at large. The number of high school graduates accepted into colleges and universities was increased from almost 403,000 students in 1980 to more than 1.4 million in 1989. This reform decreased, temporarily, the acceptance ratio from one college place for every four applicants in 1980 to one for every three applicants in 1981. In 1980 the number of students attending all kinds of higher educational institutions was almost 600,000; that number grew almost 100 percent to 1,061,403 students by 1983. By 1987 there were 1,340,381 students attending higher educational institutions. By 1987 junior colleges had an enrollment of almost 260,000 students; colleges and universities had an enrollment of almost 990,000 students; other higher education institutions enrolled the balance.

A second reform was the prohibition of private, after-school tutoring. Formerly, private tutors could charge exorbitant rates if they had a good “track record” of getting students into the right schools through intensive coaching, especially in English and in mathematics. This situation gave wealthy families an unfair advantage in the competition. Under the new rules, students receiving tutoring could be suspended from school and their tutors dismissed from their jobs. There was ample evidence in the mid-1980s, however, that the law had simply driven the private tutoring system underground and made the fees more expensive. Some underpaid teachers and cash-starved students at prestigious institutions were willing to run the risk of punishment in order to earn as much as W300,000 to W500,000 a month. Students and their parents took the risk of being caught, believing that coaching in weak subject areas could give students the edge needed to get into a better university. By the late 1980s, however, the tutorial system seemed largely to have disappeared.

A third reform was much less popular. The ministry established a graduation quota system, in which increased freshman enrollments were counterbalanced by the requirement that each four-year college or university fail the lowest 30 percent of its students; junior colleges were required to fail the lowest 15 percent. These quotas were required no matter how well the lowest 30 or 15 percent of the students did in terms of objective standards. Ostensibly designed to ensure the quality of the increased number of college graduates, the system also served, for a while to discourage students from devoting their time to political movements. Resentment of the quotas was widespread and family counterpressures intense. The government abolished the quotas in 1984.

Social emphasis on education was not, however, without its problems, as it tended to accentuate class differences. In the late 1980s, possession of a college degree was considered necessary for entering the middle class; there were no alternative pathways of social advancement, with the possible exception of a military career, outside higher education. People without a college education, including skilled workers with vocational school backgrounds, often were treated as second-class citizens by their white-collar, college-educated managers, despite the importance of their skills for economic development. Intense competition for places at the most prestigious universities–the sole gateway into elite circles–promoted, like the old Confucian system, a sterile emphasis on rote memorization in order to pass secondary school and college entrance examinations. Particularly after a dramatic expansion of college enrollments in the early 1980s, South Korea faced the problem of what to do about a large number of young people kept in school for a long time, usually at great sacrifice to themselves and their families, and then faced with limited job opportunities because their skills were not marketable.

[edit] Teachers union

Although primary- and secondary-school teachers traditionally enjoyed high status, they often were overworked and underpaid during the late 1980s. Salaries were less than those for many other white-collar professions and even some blue-collar jobs. High school teachers, particularly those in the cities, however, received sizable gifts from parents seeking attention for their children, but teaching hours were long and classes crowded (the average class contained around fifty to sixty students).

In May 1989, teachers established an independent union, the National Teachers Union (NTU–Chon’gyojo). Their aims included improving working conditions and reforming a school system that they regarded as overly controlled by the Ministry of Education. Although the government promised large increases in allocations for teachers’ salaries and facilities, it refused to give the union legal status. Because teachers were civil servants, the government claimed they did not have the right to strike and, even if they did have the right to strike, unionization would undermine the status of teachers as “role models” for young Koreans. The government also accused the union of spreading subversive, leftist propaganda that was sympathetic to the communist regime in North Korea.

According to a report in the Asian Wall Street Journal, the union claimed support from 82 percent of all teachers. The controversy was viewed as representing a major crisis for South Korean education because a large number of teachers (1,500 by November 1989) had been dismissed, violence among union supporters, opponents, and police had occurred at several locations, and class disruptions had caused anxieties for families of students preparing for the college entrance examinations. The union’s challenge to the Ministry of Education’s control of the system and the charges of subversion had made compromise seem a very remote possibility at the start of 1990.

[edit] Controversies

The Korean education system, despite its successes in achieving high test scores, has been criticized both for its treatment of students and for the content of the education they receive.

[edit] Treatment of students

Because of the importance of the university entrance examination in determining one’s career prospects, students are under intense pressure to study long hours. The high school years, especially, are a time when students have little chance to do much except study. The Korean saying “Sleep five hours and fail, sleep four hours and pass” is taken seriously; for three years students typically begin school at 6 a.m. and finish at midnight; some students finish at 10 p.m. and go to hagwons until midnight or 1 a.m. Students can forgo the 10 p.m. to midnight classes and self-study sessions but only with permission from both their parents and their homeroom teacher, and few bother to ask. The schedule lasts seven days a week and is rigorous even during periods of nominal vacation. It is not uncommon during exam periods to see students sleeping during class from exhaustion. Students are encouraged to see themselves as being in fierce competition with their friends and peers.

In 2003 it was reported that roughly 75% of elementary schools and 80% of middle and high schools employ corporal punishment..[4]; a 1999 poll found that almost 75% of parents support it[5].

In 2005 students gathered in Seoul for a candlelight vigil in memory of friends who had committed suicide and to protest for shorter school hours and an end to the haircut policy. A significant number of them wore masks and asked reporters not to take photographs out of fear of being punished by their teachers; some schools warned their students not to attend.[6]

A pair of incidents in the summer of 2006 prompted renewed calls for a ban on corporal punishment.[7] In June, a video clip, taken by a parent visiting the school, was released on the popular Korean site Media Daum. In August 2006, it was revealed that a teacher in Daegu had hit a student 200 times for being five minutes late to class, sending him to the hospital. National Assembly Representative Choi Soon-young of the Democratic Labor Party introduced a bill which would ban all corporal punishment, with no exceptions; the Korean Federation of Teachers Associations is officially opposed to it and claims the public is as well.[8]

[edit] Content of curricula

School curricula have been criticized for indoctrinating students politically and for emphasizing rote memorization over critical thinking.

The Korean Teachers & Education Workers’ Union has been accused of fomenting general anti-Japanese sentiments in younger children [9]. The Busan branch of the union was criticized for a video it produced during the 2005 APEC meetings; the video parodied world leaders, including American President George W. Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who were gathered for the summit, and advocated an anti-corporate-globalization point of view.


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