[Campus commentary]Much ado about law schoolsFor the last few months, many of the universities that did not get selected to open an American-style law school, including Dongguk, Dankook, Chosun, Hongik and Youngsan, have protested the government’s decision.
The schools also filed a lawsuit against the Education Ministry.
Even the schools that were selected have not been satisfied. They have complained about the small number of students they can accept. Korea University, one of the schools chosen, said it was considering refusing to accept the government’s decision because of the student quota it received.
Already acclaimed for its prestigious law school, the university is considering maintaining its old college of law instead.
While the selections for the new law school system have been made, schools are still enraged, particularly over how they were selected.
The government seems to have chosen some schools without proposing enough evidence as to why they met the government standards. It still seems unclear why it is clinging to the quota for students.
Each school has a history with the old system, which is something the government has not understood. It didn’t consider the fact that, under the old system, law was already being taught to undergraduates.
To be frank, Sookmyung Women’s University does not have much to say because it has only a small number of graduates who have passed the state bar exam since the school began teaching law not long ago.
But even for students not concerned about the law school controversy, the rise in tuition fees should be seriously pondered.
Several accredited universities have argued that a tuition fee increase is unavoidable because new facilities were built for the new law schools on campus.
The reality is that only a small number of students who enter the law schools will benefit. That’s why the schools want financial support from the government.
Above all, there should not have been any bribes involved, as has been speculated. To prevent such a thing from happening in the education field, a thorough verification process should have taken place.
The issue of law school selections is sensitive in Korea, where an academic clique holds sway.
The number of students is not the most important factor; the problem is too many law schools and too few legal professionals. Universities should rethink their demand to increase the student quota.
We have to remind ourselves that we need to expand the supply of lawyers to keep up with growing demand in today’s society, as Japan and the United States have been continually doing.
In addition, the government should hash out the problem of tuition fees, the biggest issue to most students who are pressured to pay about 10 million won ($9,760) every year.
Financial support from the government is one answer, but giving aid to schools to sustain a high-quality education is another.
After all, infinitely more students in college are majoring in studies other than law.
*The writer is a reporter for the Sookmyung Times news magazine, Sookmyung Women’s University.
by Yoo Kang Hyun-ji