Awkward admission for elected school chiefNewly elected Seoul education superintendent Kwak No-hyun won his post partly by campaigning against foreign-language high schools.
Now it turns out his son attends one in Gyeonggi.
What could have been a parent’s private decision has sparked controversy. During the campaign, Kwak criticized the foreign-language schools for “losing their original purpose of training students skilled in foreign languages” and degenerating into “academies aimed solely at university entry.”
Kwak also promised to “convert or eliminate foreign-language schools that do not follow the measures for such special-purpose schools that the government drew up at the beginning of the year.”
Parents expressed mixed responses of concern and sympathy for the education superintendent, with some saying his actions didn’t measure up to his words. Others said they understood his position as a parent.
Lee Keum-hyo, the mother of a fifth grader, said, “I feel that it is wrong to want to downsize special-purpose high schools when he’s sending his child to one.”
“This is just hypocritical,” said a woman who gave her name only as Park, whose son is in his last year of junior high school. “Kwak has strongly criticized foreign-language high schools.”
Cho Gyeong-sook, the mother of a high school student in Seoul’s Gangnam region, said, “The education in schools in the northern region of Seoul is not up to par compared with the Gangnam area, so students there with good grades have no choice but to go to foreign-language high schools.”
“Gwak has probably learned the inner workings of foreign-language high schools since his child attends one,” said Lee Jun-hwa, a mother of three. “He will know what to do about illegal bribes [from parents].”
Kwak explained on Tuesday through his spokesperson, Park Sang-joo: “I sent my son to a foreign-language high school because he is a good student and he wished to go.
“However, after seeing the actual situation, I felt it was not a school emphasizing foreign-language education, but an institution for cramming Korean, English and mathematics like other university-entry academies.”
Other elected liberal education superintendents have also sent their children to special-purpose schools.
By Park Su-ryon, Kim Min-sang [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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