[LETTER TO THE EDITOR]Not much ‘international’ about planned schoolLast April there was a flurry of publicity about the new “international school” scheduled to open less than a year from now in Seoul’s Hannam-dong. On April 15, you printed my letter expressing concern that a project begun as an enticement for foreign investors and businessmen might be degenerating into simply another pricey hagwon (private institute) for the children of Korea’s growing upper class. I fear the prospect which concerned me then may come to pass.
It is common knowledge in Seoul’s expat community that some European schools originally interested in the planned new facility have withdrawn from consideration. The British School, however, is reportedly still very interested taking on the project, expanding its current curriculum offerings to include all grades, and adding a prestigious international baccalaureate program as well.
There are rumors in the foreign community, however, that another “international school” will also be making a pitch to the foundation’s board. Unlike the British School, this institution is said to be privately owned and operated for profit. Its student body, like those of several such “international schools” in Korea, is apparently heavily ethnic Korean. Putting such a privately owned, profit-making, glorified hagwon in charge of the new school hardly seems likely to encourage the touted “international diversity” that promoters last spring claimed would help make it “Asia’s best international school.” Rather, it seems more likely to produce a government and industry-subsidized English language school for the children of Korea’s wealthy elite, and to provoke more criticism of empty gestures Korea is offering in the name of attracting foreign businessmen.
by Ken Kaliher