Hwang sworn in as new minister of education

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Hwang sworn in as new minister of education

President Park Geun-hye’s new education minister assumed his post yesterday at an inaugural ceremony after the National Assembly acted favorably on the nomination.

The Assembly’s Education, Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee gave its approval to Hwang Woo-yea, a five-term Assembly member of the Saenuri Party. He also will serve as the deputy prime minister for education, culture and society.

The committee report said, “The nominee developed expertise while working as a member and chair of the education committee at the National Assembly for 13 years. Also, his experience as the leader of the [Saenuri] party and his five Assembly terms serve as evidence of his ability to mediate conflicts.”

That assessment seemed aimed at critics of his appointment, who protested that Hwang’s career path had no direct education work. Before he became a lawmaker, he served 15 years as a judge. The vast majority of education ministers have had a background as a college professor or dean.

At a ceremony at the Education Ministry in Sejong, Hwang pledged to deal swiftly with pressing educational issues. He said the ministry would come up with a plan to halve college tuition fees for students from low-income families.

He faces several obstacles in his new job, though. Many of the administration’s education policies are contradictory to the sentiments of the mainly liberal superintendents of education offices around the country elected only nine weeks ago. As a result of the June 4 local elections, 13 of 17 local offices of education are headed by politically liberal superintendents. One of the most contentious issues is the fate of self-governing private high schools.

Hwang seemed to take a cautious approach toward the elimination of the schools. “I think it’s not wise to turn the self-governing schools into ordinary public schools as a group. If they function well, we need to take more time to consult on the issue rather than changing their status.”

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr ]

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