Kwak vows to enact the student rights law
“There’s no reason to delay proclaiming the ordinance, which was passed through many steps by the city council,” Kwak told members of Seoul’s city council yesterday. “I will sign the ordinance today and then proclaim it immediately.”
While the liberal superintendent was detained for four months on charges of bribing a former campaign rival to drop out of the race for education chief in 2010, Vice Superintendent Lee Dae-young, who is known to be a conservative, asked the city council to reconsider and withdraw the ordinance.
The ordinance was promoted by Kwak and passed in December, while he was in custody. But concurrently, the issue of violence and bullying in schools started nationwide soul-searching after the suicide of a bullied middle school boy in Daegu on Dec. 20. Some feared that the student rights ordinance, which allows students to stage rallies and prohibits corporal punishment, would weaken the authority of teachers and lead to an increase in bullying and violence.
Kwak was convicted Thursday of violating the election act, fined 30 million won ($26,400) and released from detention. He is appealing the conviction and will lose his post if the Supreme Court upholds the ruling.
On his first day back at work, Kwak convened an emergency meeting with senior officials of the Seoul Education Office and read a three-page statement. A group of conservative civic groups demanded his resignation outside the office.
“For the past 133 days, my body was in prison but it wasn’t that hard,” Kwak said, expressing his intention to resume stalled polices, such as expanding Seoul’s free school lunch program.
“There are things that were suspended for the past four months, which we struggled to achieve,” Kwak said. “I will put my consistent efforts on reopening every single one with a strong, calm attitude.”
On the issue of school violence, Kwak said, the students should have a say. “I can’t hear any voices of students in discussing the school violence problem,” Kwak said.
By Kim Hee-jin [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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