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Gangnam scores for most hagwon, closures

Apr 09,2010
Signs for hagwon, or private education institutes, clutter the streets of Daechi-dong, in the Gangnam District of southern Seoul. The district, known for its high education fees, has the largest number of hagwon in the city, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, which also said the area has the highest rate of hagwon closures. By Kang Jung-hyun
Gangnam, a glitzy area south of the Han River, has the largest number of private education institutes in Seoul, according to a new report by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

The report states that the district, which is known for its high education fees, not only has the largest number of these institutes, or hagwon, with 5,811 in all, but also has the city’s highest rate of hagwon closures.

The education office conducted its study from February to March to determine the state of hagwon in Seoul.

The report goes on to say that of the 27,977 hagwon registered under the office in the February to March period, 2,575 hagwon (9.2 percent) have closed. And of the 2,575 hagwon that went out of business, 659 (11.3 percent) were in Gangnam District.

Education experts say the reason so many Gangnam hagwon go out of business is because the competition there is so fierce, making it increasingly hard for hagwon to keep their doors open.

“If a hagwon manages to survive for more than three years in this competitive area, then it means the hagwon has earned the recognition of the picky Gangnam mothers, who are the primary decision makers in choosing hagwon for their children,” said a math teacher surnamed Kim who has been running his own hagwon in Daechi-dong, Gangnam District, for eight years.

The Daechi neighborhood alone has over 400 hagwon for students of all ages.

According to people in the private education business, 70 to 80 percent of the hagwon in Daechi-dong manage to survive for more than three years.

The education office also said the number of hagwon that have shut down may actually be higher, considering there are also hagwon that have shuttered their doors without reporting the closure.

In some cases, “The neon ‘hagwon’ signs are still hung on the buildings, but we couldn’t get in contact with the hagwon owners,” said Song Ki-cheol, an official with the Gangnam District Office of Education.

The Seoul Education Office believes the Education Ministry’s decision to stop hagwon from holding classes after 10 p.m. has also had an effect on hagwon closures in the area.

The ministry says the aim of the policy, which was initiated last year on July 6, is to reduce the amount of time and money spent on private education. But some in the private education industry say it is difficult to gauge the impact the policy has had on hagwon closures because of the emergence of a new type of hagwon that helps students prepare for college acceptance through the admissions officer system.

After the Education Minister announced in March that 70 percent or more of all College Scholastic Aptitude Test questions will come from lectures aired by the Education Broadcasting System, up from the current 30 percent, hagwon have begun to offer classes based on the EBS lectures.


By Park Su-ryon [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]



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