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[Letter to the editor]Tragedy at Yeosu should shame Korea

Feb 16,2007
On Feb. 12, a fire at the detention facility of Yeosu Immigration Office took the lives of nine Chinese and one Uzbek national and injured 17 other Chinese and one Sri Lankan. Yeosu police suspect arson, but it does not matter who or what caused the fire. Apart from the alleged arsonist, the Korean government should be held responsible for the disaster in Yeosu.
First of all, the government-run facility had major safety flaws. The immigration office neglected to prepare for emergencies and ignored basic safety rules. It was not properly equipped with safety facilities. Immigration employees failed to respond properly and promptly. If they had been given proper training to handle emergencies, the disaster would not have been so tragic.
In addition, the migrants detained in Yeosu were not treated fairly. There have been allegations that immigration employees put handcuffs on them and treated them like criminals. They may have broken the law, but they are not criminals. It is a basic tenet of international law to protect foreign nationals in your territory.
This is very shameful for a country with the 11th-largest economy in the world. The Korean government should, first and foremost, apologize to the bereaved families and compensate them without delay. It should thoroughly investigate the causes of the fire and immediately take measures to prevent similar tragedies. All the immigration offices in Korea should be inspected and safety flaws fixed immediately.
Not only the government, but also the citizens of Korea should understand that migrant workers’ rights are as important as Korean nationals’ rights. Basic human rights should be respected.
Korea should be embarrassed for not respecting foreigners’ rights and having deficient safety facilities, and should reflect on itself.
Yeon Ji Yun, a student at Ewha Girl’s Foreign Language High School

Make schools good enough to educate
I moved to Korea after living in Canada and the United States for some 10 years. At my Korean high school, I quickly noticed a distinct difference in atmosphere. I was sitting in the back of the classroom when I noticed the heads of my classmates start to go down on their desks. At first it was just a few students, but soon I noticed that the teacher was giving a lecture to only four students, including me. All the other students had fallen asleep. I have never seen students nap during class, especially while the teacher was talking. Later, I realized that Korean students do not take school seriously. It left me wondering, where do students get their education? I found the answer quickly: at cram schools!
Almost all the students in my class were busy after school, going straight to cram school or rushing home to receive tutoring. I noticed they were doing their cram school homework or tutoring homework during class. I asked why they were not listening to the teacher’s lecture. They said because cram schools teach the same thing, usually more descriptively and in more detail, it is better to focus on their cram school studies. It was clear that students took cram schools more seriously than they did their high school. They sleep and fool around during school classes, but during cram school lectures, they are wide awake and listening attentively.
It does not take a genius to realize that something is wrong here. Education should be centered on what is taught in school, not on the extra things taught at cram schools. The education system must be changed. The government should make the teaching at school good enough so the need for the extra cram schools will decrease. It should be clear where the youth of Korea should receive their education.
GiHie Lydia Che, a senior at Chungshin Girls’ High School in Seoul


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