Increasing protest over tuition fees at colleges

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Increasing protest over tuition fees at colleges

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Hundreds of students rally Saturday in downtown Seoul to demand President Lee Myung-bak fulfill an election pledge of instituting tuition cuts. The placard in the forefront reads, “Cut tuition fees by half unconditionally!” [YONHAP]


Hundreds of college students have been taking part in candlelit rallies at Gwanghwamun Plaza in central Seoul to pressure the government to lower tuition fees. And, the number of participants has been growing by the day since the rally kicked off on May 29.

On Saturday evening - the seventh day of the rally - about 1,000 students and civic group members joined forces to demand that tuitions be lowered. The total was about 500 more participants than previous days.

The Saturday rally was joined by Rhyu Si-min, head of the People’s Participation Party; Kwon Young-ghil, floor leader of the Democratic Labor Party; and Kang Nam-hoon, head of the Korean Professors Union and a professor at Hanshin University.

About 20 protesters were arrested at the plaza Saturday around 9:30 p.m. One male student was reported to have been injured during the confrontation and was taken to a nearby hospital.

A civic group that works together to develop measures to deal with high tuition said it submitted a notice of an assembly last week to hold a candlelight vigil in Gwanghwamun Plaza for four days from tomorrow to Friday but said they were rejected by the police.

The civic group said if the police reject their request one more time, they will hold the demonstration by holding a cultural festival.

According to a report in May by the Education Ministry, the average annual tuition for the 163 four-year private universities was nearly 7.69 million won ($7,000) and the average cost for national and provincial universities was 4.43 million won.

In response to the protest, Lee Ju-ho of the Education Ministry, said the ministry will speed up efforts to ease the tuition burden. Lee said during a KBS TV “Inside the Issue” interview that “the government, the National Assembly and colleges throughout the country must put their heads together to lower tuition fees and strengthen universities’ competitiveness.”

Lee said, however, that “the government shouldering tuition on its own is impossible [due to the financial burden],” and stressed “the country, universities and the National Assembly should work together to make it work.” Lee said that the government is trying to lower interest rates for college loans, while there has been progress to allow interest exemption for male students registered in the military.

The minister has requested universities shoulder more of the cost to help loosen the burden on students.

“The key problem here is that universities are not using their reserve funds on their students,” Lee said.


By Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]


한글 관련 기사 [연합]

‘반값등록금’ 촛불집회 7일째…20명 연행

4일 오후 서울 광화문 KT사옥 앞에서 정부의 '반값 등록금' 공약 이행을 촉구하는 촛불 문화제가 7일째 이어졌다.

문화제를 주최한 한국대학생연합(한대련)은 전날보다 500여 명이 많은 2천 명(경찰 추산 1천명)이 참여한 것으로 추산했다.

이날 집회에서는 학생들의 공연과 참석자들의 자유발언이 이어졌다.

한국외대 글로벌캠퍼스 학생 박모(28)씨는 "정부가 자꾸 학생들에게 경고하는데 경고를 받아야 할 대상은 3년 동안 공약을 이행하지 않은 이명박 정권"이라며 "당장 반값 등록금을 이행하라"고 촉구했다.

이날 집회에는 국민참여당 유시민 대표와 민주노동당 권영길 원내대표, 전국교수노조 강남훈 위원장(한신대 교수) 등이 참여했다.

35개 중대 2천500여 명의 경력을 배치한 경찰은 시위대를 둘러싸고 미신고 집회라는 이유로 세 차례 해산 명령을 내렸으나 참석자들은 9시30분까지 집회를 이어갔다.

집회를 마친 참석자들이 동아일보 방향으로 행진을 시도했으나 경찰에 가로막혔고 이 과정에서 60대 남성이 넘어지기도 했다.

대부분 참석자는 이후 자진 해산했으나 450여 명의 학생이 종로 1가와 2가로 이동해 시위를 계속했다. 경찰은 이들 중 차도에 있던 학생들을 인도로 이동시키는 과정에서 20명을 연행했고 남학생 한 명이 다쳐 병원으로 옮겨졌다.

시위 참가자는 "진압 과정에서 남학생 한 명이 쓰러졌는데 경찰이 연행하려고 그대로 방순대 버스로 끌고 갔고 버스 안에서도 의식이 없자 그때야 병원으로 이송했다"고 전했다.

명동성당에 모여 정리 집회를 한 시위 참가자들은 일부 학생이 연행된 경찰서를 항의 방문했다.

경찰 관계자는 "불법 집회인 만큼 채증을 통해 사후에도 주도자 등을 처벌할 방침"이라고 밝혔다.

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