Mayor wants TV showdown over school lunches

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Mayor wants TV showdown over school lunches

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon challenged Kwak No-hyun, the city’s education chief, to a duel, by requesting a televised debate over the hot topic of free school lunches.

During a press conference yesterday, the mayor said the friction between the Seoul Metropolitan Government and the city council over the lunch program should end.

“Let us not waste our time by raising our voices,” the mayor said.

Kwak, however, did not bite.

The Seoul Metropolitan Council and Seoul Education Superintendent Kwak refused the mayor’s proposal, saying that “shackling an issue agreed upon by citizens is a politically motivated move.”

Oh has maintained that Seoul city should put more focus on the “three no’s” in education, including no violence, no private tutoring and no major expenses for school supplies.

The mayor, though, did not back off from his position regarding free school lunches, which was approved by the Seoul city council on Dec.1.

“I demand a voluntary withdrawal of the free school lunches ordinance by the council,” said the mayor. “If the bill is not retracted, I will keep refusing to appear at the council’s question-and-answer session. Further legal actions are inevitable as well.”

Kwak held a press conference yesterday as well, saying, “The free school lunch program is a policy based on the consent of citizens through the superintendent election and the Constitution. The mayor degraded the education welfare policy as a reckless populist welfare policy.”

Under the bill passed by the majority Democratic Party councilors, public elementary school students in Seoul will get free school meals starting next year and the city will provide a budget for free meals in middle schools from 2012.


By Chang Chung-hoon [enational@joongang.co.kr]

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