[Letter to the editor]Honoring contracts
We are living in a gloomy period. Trust between the state and individual citizens has been disappearing.
In any country, if confidence in a contractual agreement and private property ownership disappears, the force that drives a person or a company will disappear.
But we are losing trust in both of them. In particular, under the revised law on private schools state power breaks its contract, steals private property and makes the schools a tool for left-leaning ideological education.
The current administration initiated the revision with the goal of empowering a temporary member of a school board, selected by the government, to supervise private schools and put an end to corruption at such schools.
The revised law, which was passed amid nationwide controversy, also requires each private school to invite outside figures to be members of the school board and form a faculty committee to review and approve school regulations, budgets and management, handing over the school’s decision making to the hands of a small group.
Now it is likely that diverse groups in private universities will raise their voices and create disputes day after day. It is a very outdated educational policy in this globalized and competitive world.
There was a similar incident in the United States. After gaining independence from Britain, the state of New Hampshire decided to supervise Dartmouth College, which was chartered by George III before independence, in a bid to enhance transparency at the school. The state increased the number of the school’s board members to 21 from 12 by appointing additional members and formed an independent audit committee.
A state court ruled in favor of the state but the Supreme Court overturned the ruling. This is the famous Dartmouth College vs. Woodward case. The case still serves as a significant precedent in protecting the rights of a corporation from state power.
The ruling says that the trust and the contract made between the government and its citizen when the citizen donated his or her private property to establish the school should be respected. It also states that respecting a contract is a basic principle of democracy.
This ruling was applied to colleges as well as all corporations and became the driving force behind American society’s development.
But the ruling was not easily made. President Thomas Jefferson supported the governor of New Hampshire and many people believed that the state council and government had the right to revise the articles of incorporation. The Supreme Court’s decision under this circumstance was made based on the belief that it would benefit American society, colleges and corporations.
How about us? The government is degrading private schools as though they are criminal groups, completely ignoring the schools’ reputation, pride and freedom of religion.
And it is trying to enforce ideological education.
Park Woo-hee, professor emeritus,
Seoul National University
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