[FOUNTAIN]No more 'first come, first served'

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[FOUNTAIN]No more 'first come, first served'

"The first day I slept on the street for my children did not seem like a big deal. The bright moonlight made me feel gloomy as I lay on the 5,000 won ($4) styrene foam pad with a blanket. After spending two nights like this, I was angry, asking if this was the only way."

This was the lament of one parent who spent two sleepless nights in front of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education last week. The scene was similar to the underground passages near Seoul Station right after the 1997-98 financial crisis, with hundreds of people sleeping on the concrete. Some confused pedestrians even asked if there was free food.

The situation resulted from the Seoul education office's decision to assign high school freshmen, who wanted to transfer to high schools in Seoul due to their move from outside Seoul, to schools in Seoul in the order of tickets the Seoul office handed out. The first-come-first-served rule easily establishes rank.

The first disciplinary drill for new army recruits is to race around a field, winning is the only way to get out of the drill. This race in the military teaches soldiers that those who win the race to complete an order can survive.

Only the fittest survive is a rule that applies to the global economy. The banana-related trade dispute between the United States and the European Union is a good example. The United States filed a case with the World Trade Organization against the European Union, which placed favorable quotas on banana imports from former European colonies in the Caribbean and the Central America. The trade dispute continued eight years with a series of retaliatory measures and countermeasures. After a lengthy confrontation, the two sides agreed to let whoever ships bananas into European ports first become an exporter of bananas, beginning last July. Countries that were able to produce and ship masses of bananas, including the United States, captured the European market. One result was that in countries like Panama and Costa Rica, where the banana industry was led by small businesses, 8,000 people lost their jobs.

Because of numerous negative side effects, the first-come-first-served rule is not the best way to allot school seats. The majority of those parents, who paid huge housing costs to move to Seoul and slept outdoors, failed to enroll their children in the school of their choice. How long will the Seoul education office maintain this outdated method? In the end, the Seoul education office said new plans would be devised. We will see if parents will sleep on the street next year.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Sohn Byoung-soo

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