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Grab Your Candles – Protest Planned in Seoul

While the Lee Myung Bak government is busy making a name for itself in trying to transform education, he’s also making a number of business owners unhappy.  Next week, numerous hogwans will be closed on Tuesday while directors and teachers converge in Seoul for a protest march.

While the major issue at hand concerns more the IpShi hogwans, the middle and high school level cramming schools famous for keeping children to study in the wee hours, there are more serious issues that are rearing their heads. For the Ipshi hogwans, the government wants to curtail their operating hours from midnight down to 10pm. However English specialty hogwans, which typically close far earlier, are feeling the solidarity with their Ipshi brethren and will participate in the protests as well and close their schools for the day.

A more serious issue is with the heavy handedness with which the government’s desire for more English in the public schools is being implemented. While more teachers and classes have been added, there is still a tremendous amount of money being spent on private education. In an effort to increase enrollment of the public schools, some school administrators have resorted to pressure tactics. Teachers, are apparently coming under economic pressure from their administrators to increase attendance in the after-school English classes and, well, stuff rolls downhill. Students have reported being pressured to attend the public school classes rather than their hogwan.

Add to that the recent edict that hogwans may no longer sell books directly and you’ve got a lot of unhappy hogwan owners. Some hogwans made part of their profits from selling the books the students were required to obtain. Even for those hogwans that simply did a pass-thru of cost the change is an enormous hassle. Parents must go to the bookstores and buy the proper books and supplies – which for some parents whose English ability is limited is a real challenge. Busy parents must now take time out to shop whereas before they simply relied on the hogwan to supply the books.

I doubt this will take on the proportions of last year’s USA beef protests, but I’ll enjoy my day off none the less.

BBC photograph from the Seoul Beef Protests

BBC photograph from the Seoul Beef Protests

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