A number of students submitted a petition to the administrators of Seoul National University (SNU) titled, “A music university professor’s violence against students.”
Kim In-hye, one of the nation’s most popular sopranos and a professor at one of South Korea’s top school, is accused of alleged violent misdeeds. In the petition, students claimed that they had been habitually beaten by the professor, forced to sell her concert tickets, as well as bring her gifts. In addition, several students testified that Mrs. Kim demanded money tacitly labeled “tokens of gratitude.”
After SNU conducted a full investigation into the incident, a none-member disciplinary committee decided to dismiss Professor Kim.
According to school authorities, Kim not only made about ten of her students sing at her mother-in-law’s 80th birthday party last October, but also ordered an assistant teacher to allow Kim the use of the school auditorium for her daughter’s practices when personal use of the space was prohibited.
However, Kim denied all such allegations, insisting that some of them were exaggerated. In an interview with a major newspaper, Kim said that her hot temper might have led her to frequently hit students on the head or back, but she did not consider these acts of violence. Moreover, she stressed that strict teaching methods is an essential part of vocal education and that most other teachers also used educational methods similar to hers.
In the area of art, apprenticeship education is a common method of teaching, so the relationship between teacher and student is very closely connected. But when looking at the inside of the system, the professor’s influence is enormously powerful. The future of the student often lies under the control of the professor, thus students have to show almost absolute obedience to the professor. “Professor Kim is a renowned vocal musician in Korea. Being her student ensures a strong foothold in becoming a successful musician. Therefore, not many would dare to raise such a problem,” said a graduate of SNU’s College of Music.
Education based on apprenticeship is a double-edged sword. It allows for the effective and accurate handing down of the teacher’s special skill or know-how to students; however, it often turns into a dominant-subordinate relationship. Additionally, if the relationship goes sour, things like this could happen. SNU plans to apply a ‘tutorial improvement plan’ to freshmen in order to resolve such problems, in which students can select their tutor after having experienced several professors.
The apprenticeship education has been in place for a long time. It was especially well-developed in Europe and Japan. The method itself might not be the problem, but the problem is a matter of how people use the system effectively. It’s time to think about a way to reinvent a desirable relationship between teachers and students in the world of music.
Will Ewha Womans University’s 125-year-old policy of making classrooms off limits to men be repealed?
Moon Hee Kim
“The female-only admission is in violation of constitutional rights.” “Ewha’s unique ideology and educational objectives needs to be respect for the autonomy of private schools.”
On February 10th, the Constitutional Court held a public hearing on whether or not the female-only admission policy at Ewha Womans University Law School had infringed upon rights to equality and other constitutional rights of male students. Three male lawyer hopefuls filed a petition with the court in 2009 to abolish the policy governing Ewha’s law school.
There are several women-only universities in South Korea, but Ewha is the only one to be given authorization to have a law school. Ewha Womans University was founded in 1886 by Methodist missionary Mary F. Scranton to provide then uneducated and underprivileged women in the male-dominated Korean society with choices for further education. Ewha is one of the twenty-five Law Schools in South Korea, which opened in 2009 to educate 2,000 students annually. The Ewha law school offers 100 new slots annually which is the third largest quota accounting for 5 percent of the total.
There were very different views between the two opposite positions at the hearing, male lawyer hopefuls and Ewha Law School. According to a lawyer Jeon Yong-woo, who represents the male students, it is unconstitutional that male students have to compete for the remaining 1,900 slots, while Ewha Womans University Law School offers 100 new slots annually among the 2,000 allowed number of students admitted to Law School. The lawyer Jeon added that this was “discriminatory against men” to exclusively allocate the 100 slots at Ewha to women.
He also said female students are already taking a greater portion in the local judiciary and they do not need any favoritism over male students. “Today, around 40 percent of new judges and prosecutors are female and the ratio continues to increase. So it’s no longer necessary to maintain the policy to boost gender equality with attempts to allocate more posts to females in the legal circle.” About 42 percent of successful test takers of the bar exam in 2010, or 338, were female, which was a record high. The ratio has hovered around 35-38 percent in the past five years, according to the Ministry of Justice.
Ewha Womans University’s representative, Lee Seon-ae, on the other hand, countered that Ewha Law School’s guidelines for applicants are not under the state, therefore it does not fall under Constitutional Acts. “There needs to be respect for the autonomy of private schools,” Lee said. “There is a logical reason behind solely choosing women for its school, it is Ewha Law School’s educational goal to ‘train lawyers for sexual equality’ and ‘raising female leaders of the future,” said Lee.
Lee added that the rights of men to receive equal education was not being violated as male students have guaranteed opportunities to go to twenty-four other law schools. Furthermore, application guidelines are not in violation of Constitutional Rights since admission into a Law School is not directly related to qualification for becoming a lawyer.
The Ministry of Education which endorsed the policy of Ewha, said the rule is not problematic. “The ministry allowed Ewha to run the Law School in the belief that the admission rule is not discriminatory against males.” Prof. Kim Ha-yeoul of Korea University said the disputed 100 slots should be seen as opportunity for the country to discover talented women and nurture them to become leaders in this still male-dominated society. “Ewha’s sprit of education is nurturing female leaders in Korean society. And the ministry endorsed its right to run the Law School to pursue that specific goal.” Kim said. Prof. Jeon Hak-seon of Hankook University of Foreign Studies sided with the petitioners, saying, “Reserving a certain number of slots only for female contenders could be viewed as a restriction of equality and fair competition.”
Court official said that the ruling is scheduled to be released in three or four months.
The Constitutional Court held a public hearing on 10 February 2011, discussing whether the women only admissions policy is in violation of the right of male students to equality and other constitutional rights. Three male students, who have been preparing for law school, filed a petition against Ewha Women’s University law school in 2009. At the hearing, the primary issues were the applicant’s claim of legality and whether or not it infringes on applicant’s constitutional rights.
According to Jeon Yong-woo, the male student representative, Ewha’s policy of restricting admission to only female students is a violation of constitutional rights, specifically the right to receive education, freedom of occupation and right to equality. The current law school system in Korea is set up in a way where the government limits the number of law school graduates to about 2,000 per year students. Ewha was one of the 25 universities authorized by the Ministry of Education and Science Technology (MEST), and allotted the third highest quota with 100 students. In particular, the fact that Ewha is the only women university to be given a license to run a law school eliminates the quota of 2,000 to 1,900 for male applicants.
Lawyer Jeon insisted that “law school is a training organization for national judicial officers and the admission rules of private law schools should be based on public interest as well. Ewha law school unfairly limits the opportunity to become a lawyer on the basis that the applicants are men. It violates the gender equality.” Therefore, claimants added Ewha law school should choose either to cancel the current guidelines for applicants or have their authorization to run a law school revoked in order to give fair opportunities between men and women.
Jeon stressed that prohibiting men’s admission itself is discriminatory in principle. If there is a need to protect women, preferential policies for women by giving additional points to female applicants will reasonably fit the benefit and protection of the law.
At the national bar examination as of 2010, 338 successful candidates (42%) were female, which was a record high. And the ratio has continued to increase in recent years.
On the contrary, Ewha Womans University’s representative, Lee Seon-ae refuted that Ewha is not a state institution and its guidelines for applicants are not under the state, thus it does not fall under constitutional acts. Furthermore, claimants have no eligibility to sue because they did not even apply to Ewha law school.
Kim Moon-hyun, dean of Ewha law school, said “women make up only 17 percent of the Korean legal circle, thus Ewha law school’s policy is an affirmative action and does not breach the Constitution. Ewha law school’s educational goal is to ‘train lawyers for sexual equality’ and ‘raising female leaders of the future.’ Specific educational goals and ideals of school should be guaranteed in terms of fundamental rights of autonomy of private school.” He also said, “it is desirable to have female-focused legal training institutes in the male-dominated Korean legal circles.”
Lawyer Seong seung-hwan for MEST also said women are proportionally still have a weak position in Korean society. “Ewha’s quota takes up just 5 percent of the total, thus its policy seems to be rational and a proper method,” he insisted.
The ruling is scheduled to be released in 3 to 4 months, according to court officials.
By Hyoyeol Chong
Regarding the State-run standardized test carried out by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on July 13, conflict between the central government and local education offices has arisen. This test was once abolished under liberal governments, but has been re-introduced by the Lee Myung-bak administration. The nations’ Progressive Teachers’ union and parent groups have protested this test claiming that it could rank schools, which brings unnecessary competition among students and schools through performance. Furthermore, the government has taken firm action on those who choose not to take the exam.
Since last October, a total of 14 teachers were fired from schools due to their opposition to the test. In addition, about 330 students boycotted the tests last year. Both claim that, like England, the government has to let schools decide whether they choose to take the test to protect rights of students and teachers.
The Jeollabuk-do Office of Education sent a letter to the federal government stating that, unless they have a valid reason, the head of education offices should comply with the removal of standardized assessments under Primary and Secondary Education Law. However, the ministry sent an official warning letter to the Jeollabuk-do Office of Education, stating that other exams or programs aiming to replace or invalidate the test are against education Law. The ministry said that students who skip their exams, whether intentionally or not, will be punished. Also, teachers who let their students abstain from the test are to face punishment as well. This test has also restricted the mobility rights of students as they cannot go abroad during the test period lest they face punishment.
One of the officials of the provincial office in charge of the assessment stated that, “We never discourage students from taking the standardized test. We’ve just requested schools to offer alternative programs for those who don’t want the test.” A teacher said that, “Some school principals are following the ministry’s guidelines too rigidly. They need to adopt them flexibly depending on each student’s individual situation. This rigid observation is resulting in clashes between some parents and schools.”
Sun Jul 18, 2010
by Ji-Su Park
In April 2009, Kim, an 18-year-old single mother, was forced to drop out of her high school when some teachers found out about her pregnancy. Following this, Kim’s mother filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK) claiming that her daughter’s right to education was violated by the school. NHRCK declared that Kim’s school was violating the NHRCK policy article 2 clause 4 “The use of educational facilities for the purpose of pregnancy and birth” Although at first the school maintained that Kim’s expulsion was necessary to protect other students from a “bad influence,” they later followed the NHRCK’s recommendation and let Kim recommence her studies.
Today, 5,000 to 6,000 Korean teenage girls become single mothers like Kim, but not all of them can go back to school. On March 16 of this year, the NHRCK held an open discussion at the National Assembly regarding the right to education for unwed teenage mothers. According to NHRCK’s surveys from 2007 and 2008, 74% of teachers believe that a pregnant student would have a bad influence on other students at school, while 81% of teen single mothers want to continue studying.
During the discussion, Han Sang-soon, director of Aeranwon, a Christian organization for unwed mothers, said that teen single mothers need decent jobs to support themselves and their children. In order to get good jobs, teenage single mothers must continue studying at their schools. They maintain the importance of education for a more comfortable future.
Some schools however, are reluctant to let pregnant teenage girls continue studying. They argue that pregnant teen students corrupt the morality of the students around them and as a result many pregnant girls must consider abortion in order to stay in school. The male fathers however, are allowed to continue studying, issuing a question of gender equality.
HOW KOREAN GOVERNMENT IS HANDLING THE SITUATION TODAY
- Because of low fertility rate, the government is currently very anti-abortion (pro-choice) today. The problem is that the government does not really have social infrastructures to help single mothers at all. (Abortion is illegal, but there are exceptions according to 모자보건법 – in case of rape, hereditary diseases, etc.).
- For the first time ever, the government decided to financially help the unmarried single mothers as a part of 위기가정 지원책 last year.
OTHER ADVANCED NATIONS’ EXAMPLES (U.S., United Kingdom, France, etc.?)
WHAT KOREAN SOCIETY (GOVERNMENT AND SCHOOLS) NEED TO DO
- More health care service and medical help for unmarried single mothers
- More financial support for unmarried single mothers
- Establish more social infrastructures before promoting anti-abortion policies
- Need more policies to control the “unmarried fathers” rather than “unmarried mothers”
- More counseling service for teen single mothers
- Sex education
Tues June 29, 2010
By MyungJin Lee
Empty seats of teen athletes can be easily found in classrooms. Even during lectures, a majority of them are practicing with other team members instead of participating in classes.
According to Yonhap News, most teen athletes spend four hours practicing on weekdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. They are free at other times, but many players are not returning to their classroom to study and their teachers do not ask them to do so.
“Teachers and parents have never blamed me for poor test results,” said a high school sophomore soccer player who started five years ago. “I just randomly fill in answer sheets on exams. In fact, I don’t remember the last time I studied,” he said.
It’s an undeniable fact that Korea has become a great athletic country with high ranks during the Olympic and World Cup games. However, the social atmosphere forces teen athletes to think that studying is a waste of time. Parents and coaches encourage their children and players to concentrate only on sports to enter university or win competitions. Many student athletes fail to achieve academic goals. Furthermore, they have a lack of friends and skills outside of sports.
A recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Seoul Olympic Sports Promotion Foundation says that 18,086 students specializing in sports in middle and high schools across the country found deteriorating scholastic achievement as they advance to higher grades. 60 percent of athletes in middle schools were in the bottom 20 percent in the national average for test scores. The ratio gets worse in high-school to 78 percent. Only 9 percent of middle school athletes remained in the top 9 percent, dropping to 8.4 percent as they advance to high school.
Ha Tae-ryong, a sports ministry official, said, “Players in high school spend more time polishing up their sports skill than increasing test scores to enter university. Thus, worsening academic achievement is sort of common among students majoring in sports. Government, parents, teachers, coaches and education authorities should take action to set out long-term policy for changing the improving academic environment for teen athletes.”
In contrast to Korea, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in America has delivered an academic improvement program for its students since 2004. During a press conference, James L. Isch, the NCAA’s interim president, said that there was marked improvement in several sports, including men’s basketball and football.
The NCAA introduced the academic-progress rate to gauge college athletes’ performance in the classroom. Teams with academic-progress rates below 925 out of 1,000 can lose scholarships, and scores below 900 can trigger more-severe sanctions, like restrictions on practice time and post-season play.
“We’ve seen steady progress,” said Mr. Harrison, who also chairs the NCAA’s Division I Committee on Academic Performance. “I think that’s wonderful, and it’s a great indicator that coaches and administrators understand the goal of academic reform.”
Tues June 15
A 16 year-old female student died on 2 June at a high school located in Kimpo District of Gyeonggi Province after receiving punishment for being late to school in the morning. The Kimpo police reported, “on 1 June at 8:10AM, the student was ordered to do to multiple ‘squats and stand-ups’ as a punishment with 6 fellow tardy classmates near the entrance of the school. The student collapsed during the process and was sent to a nearby hospital, she passed away at 10AM the next day.”
The Korean press reported that in 2008 the student underwent surgery to remove her gall bladder and in May of this year, surgery for urinary incontinence. She had also been taking long-term medication for treatment.
The school has defended itself in stating that most teachers knew of the student’s condition but due to the large population of students, they were not able to notify every single teacher. Although the punishment may have not been severe, the exertion on the student may have been excessive.
This is not the first incident of excessive school punishment reported in the South Korean media. It is a well-known fact that South Korean schools have disciplined students through physical punishment. In 2006, a high school senior was sent to a hospital after being hit 200 times on the rear for being tardy and not following the school’s hair code. In 2009, another student committed suicide after being punished in the school hallway and was told to write a memorandum to quit school if tardy again.
Following this recent incident, netizens all over have expressed their condolences and disapproval of such punishment with comments such as “we shouldn’t be teaching students by chastising them with punishment” and “was it necessary to punish a sick student?”
Several measures have been taken by the South Korean government to reform and improve the situation but physical punishment is still prevalent in many schools. With local elections recently held on 2 June, many hope that the new progressive superintendents of education for Seoul, Gwak No-Hyun, and Gyeonggi Province, Kim Sang-gon, provide more support for the Student Human Rights Ordinance, a student-led organization advocating for student rights.
The two electees have campaigned for more extensive student human rights which recently led to the eradication of all forms of physical punishment at schools on 19 July. With Gwak No-Hyun’s bold beginning, many expect greater changes and improvement within schools.■
Tues June 7
A 45 year-old adjunct professor of 10 years committed suicide by carbon monoxide
poisoning in his home on May 25. The man, Dr. Suh had been an adjunct professor for Chosun University.
As reported by Hankyoreh News, his 5-page will, written to South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, criticized the corrupt process of hiring tenure-track professors and the lack of job security. His will elaborates that during his 10-year attempt to be hired as a tenure-track professor, he was timelessly asked to pay nearly 60 to 100 million won ($50,000-$85,000) for employment.
A former colleague of Dr. Suh mentioned that, “It is a well-known secret that monetary payment for professorship is one of the last requirements to be hired. Through this incident the treatment and hopelessness of part-time lecturers as well as the corruption amongst professors needs to be revealed.” Unfortunately for Dr. Suh, he didn’t have the economic ability to pay the cost for a professorship.
In 2008, an opinion poll by Kyosu News reported that 54.6% of professors hired were done in an unjust way. Adjunct professors, often called part-time lecturers, consist of professional lecturers usually with Ph.D degrees or are graduate teaching assistants. As many schools have lost funding over the recent years due to economic backlash, the number of part-time lecturers has increased. It has been reported that more than half of all teaching faculty members in South Korean post-secondary institutions are adjunct professors or part-time lecturers with nearly 52% of the group not covered by health insurance, pension, or unemployment benefits.
In an interview with the Korea Human Rights Foundation, an anonymous part-time lecturer at a well-known university in Seoul stated that, “it must be frustrating remaining at school as a part-timer without any promise despite years of education, and a suitable diploma. What I think we should do is to reduce part-timers and increase full-time jobs such as adjunct professor positions so that fewer people would suffer from being insecure about what they do. It might be controversial where a part-time lecturer’s job might be at stake but it would bring a more positive outcome for people who have committed their lives to academia as both schools and the government can provide them with better work conditions.”
On 27 May, while laying the remains of Dr. Suh into a crypt, his older brother expressed that, “It’s a pity that my younger brother couldn’t become a professor because he didn’t have the bribe money.” While working as an adjunct professor for a public university in Gwangju for 10 years, Dr. Suh earned 34,000 won ($27) per hour and worked 10 hours a week which equaled to an average salary of 1.4 million won per month ($1,133) to support a family of four.
This is not the first incident of part-time lecturers expressing their grievances in extreme acts. Since 1998, there have been 9 similar incidences. In June 2004, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea expressed that “part-time lecturers in post-secondary institutions compared to full-time lecturers are discriminated in working conditions, not guaranteed ‘teacher’ status, and adequate wages without a rational explanation which constitutes as a violation of equality.” Part-time lecturers have also voiced their opinion on the violation of equality as workers who aren’t guaranteed the rights outlined above.
Lecturers in South Korea have historically been oppressed since the Park Chung-hee presidential administration in 1977. As the first president Rhee Syngman was ousted from office through a student-led uprising, the authoritarian rule of Park Chung-hee kept students and teachers who helped instigate the uprising under tight surveillance. As a punitive measure, lecturers were demoted in status which has prolonged and manifested into incidents such as this.
The South Korean National Assembly submitted a bill on 7 September 2007 as recognition to reform the current standards of part-time lecturers which has been left on the back burner with no suggestions of bringing it back to a standing committee. ■