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When Thai model Duangjai Phichitamphon was recently at the Korea’s Jeju Island Airport in line waiting to get a tax refund, she was pushed and bumped into by a large group of mainland tourists. She then filmed a video as a witness, criticizing mainland tourists as lacking manners.
South Korea has no end to “elite” institutions, including specialized high schools, international schools, and english language schools for students hoping to get a leg up on the fierce competition to get into brand name schools and eventually, land a job in a large conglomerate. Instead of normal institutions, these elite schools are pursued by parents hoping to give their kids access to another “elite” group of kids, who will serve as useful social connections for their career. The academic elitism that was prevalent in universities and high schools is now trickling down to preschools, and many South Korean parents believe that the path to a successful career starts with getting into an “elite” preschool.
Article from Kukmin Ilbo:
40-year-old Choi, who lives in Cheongdam-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, is worried about her 5 year-old daughter’s entrance to preschool next year. Through the “chaos of the preschool lottery system,” her daughter won a spot at the local preschool. In making preparations for her daughter to drop out of the ordinary preschool, Choi paid in advance the entrance fee at the neighboring english language preschool in Shinsa-dong. Meanwhile, among the local mothers, she heard, “The community created in the preschool will result in elite connections later on.” They even said “If your kid doesn’t go to the expensive english language preschool here, when she goes to elementary school, she will feel alienated.” The monthly tuition for the english language preschool is 900,000 won, which is four times higher than the cost for an ordinary preschool, but eventually, Choi made the hard decision to abandon the ordinary preschool that her daughter had been accepted into.
The rampant academic elitism in our society in some elite high schools and special purpose high schools has already stealthily trickled down to preschools. In the past, you could obtain elite treatment just by going to a good college, but now you need to take “prestigious courses” from english language preschools, international elementary and middle schools, international high schools and special purpose high schools to become part of the “pure elite.” The future we once joked about where people would have to fill out their educational background from preschool through university on employment forms is now approaching.
Ordinary elementary schools are marginalized: the new system of ranking that stars from preschools becomes more segmented when they enter elementary school. In the 1980’s-90s, some overeager parents used false addresses and other methods in order to send their kids to Gangnam and Jongro area private elementary schools. The majority of parents are relieved when their kids are assigned to a school near home. The kids in the neighborhood they used to play with would become their elementary school friends, and it was common for the majority to attend the same middle school. However, in the 21st century, recognition of achievement and a sharp increase in international schools admitting local students has led to the perception that sending one’s child to an ordinary elementary school means the parents don’t care as much about their child’s education.
Some parents also argue about the hierarchy between international schools. Ms. A, who lives in Pohang in Kyungbok, decided to send her five year old daughter to an international school near her house, but recently, she’s changed her mind and will send her daughter to Jeju island. This is because she heard that the sons and daughters of the upper class are flocking to international schools in Jeju where the domestic admission policies are more relaxed. Her friend also advised her, “If you want to build a good “network” for your kid, you have to send her to Jeju.” The schools Ms. A is looking at require annual tuition rates of 12,000,000 ~ 1,900,000 won ($10,922 – $17,293), but she “can bear this for the sake of my child’s future.”
If her kid can’t get into the international school, she can also try to get into the english language preschool as the next best option. Ms. B, who lives in Songpa-gu, Seoul has a seven year old daughter who was assigned to the public elementary school near their apartment complex. Circumstances didn’t allow her to send her daughter to the international school farther away, so she registered her daughter for afternoon classes at the english language preschool. There, they offer extracurricular activities such as horseback riding, and flute. Ms. B said, “The majority of english language preschools are similar to hagwons, so many kids continue attending them even after beginning elementary school.”
The tuition rates are more expensive than attending college, but there are no open seats. Tuition for international schools is surpassing that of middling private schools. On the afternoon of Dec 10th, at a French international school. The majority of students exiting the school building are Korean kids. The school has an entrance fee of 3,000,000 won ($2,730), and an annual registration fee of 10,300,000 won ($9,375). Including dormitory fees of 510,000 won ($464) per month and incidentals, parents can rack up an annual bill of 15,000,000 won ($13,653).
Despite the price tag, the popularity is such that students cannot get in because there are no available spaces. The school restricts the number of domestic students to 30% of the school’s total enrollment, but last year, in an audit of the Education Office, it was discovered that 91 out of 211 enrolled students (43%) were illegally admitted. The majority of such cases were the sons and daughters of doctors and lawyers in the Gangnam-gu and Jongru-gu areas who forged documents so their kids could enter the schools.
This phenomenon started in high schools. A policy abolishing special purpose and autonomous private high schools proposed by Cho Hwi-won, the Superintendent of Education in Seoul City, started in the same context. As the number of special purpose high schools and autonomous private high schools overflow, students who enter regular high schools are stigmatized as “dumb” even before they begin their exam life.
The reason why parents are so eager is because of the “good alumni connections.” In some preschools, parents are the ones who periodically arrange gatherings for the alumni after graduation, and force their kids to interact. Education critic Lee Beom says, “Universities continue to create admission criteria for ‘global talents’ where students from international schools show strength, and it’s also easier for them to enter large export-driven conglomerates. This resulted in an extreme situation in education.” He also points out, “early education has become a precondition to join the establishment and survive in the employment competition.”]]>
A large fire broke out in a storage facility at 727 Tai Gu Street in Harbin’s DaoWai District at 1:14pm on 2015 January 2. This Storage facility is associated with a work unit which has violated fire-code violations. The concrete and rebar structure was used for the wholesale of retail goods.
After the fire broke out, the Heilongjiang provincial committee and provincial government as well as the Harbin municipal committee, and city government took it very seriously [immediately responded]. Provincial party secretary Wang Xian Kui, visited the scene to direct operations; Provincial governor Lu Hao issued a command requiring all directly related departments to immediately be transferred to the scene and assist in rescue operations. They quickly began an investigation into the number of people buried in the rubble, as well as the reason for the fire. Secretary general and standing member of the provincial party Li Haitao and secretary general of the provincial government Li Xiangang have just arrived at the scene to organize the fire-fighting, search and rescue, and medical treatment operations; secretary of the municipal committee Chen Haipi made deployments at first notice. Mayor Song Xi Bin, Standing member of the municipal committee and acting vice mayor Nie Gunling, municipal committee standing member and head of the propaganda department Zhang Lixin, vice mayor Ren Ruichen and other city leaders were at the scene commanding the firefighting, search and rescue work; The provincial committee general office, provincial government general office, provincial safety supervision bureau, provincial public security department, the provincial health planning commission, public security fire headquarters, and other leading officials were at the scene assisting the command.
After the fire started, the fire department rushed to mobilize its forces, arriving to the scene at 1:23pm. They immediately began carrying out firefighting and rescue operations as well as dispersing the crowd of onlookers. The Harbin fire department dispatched 17 squadrons, 110 fire trucks, and 480 officers and personnel. After the units arrived, they discovered the 2nd story of a building close to Tai Gu Street had caught fire, and was burning ferociously. Due to the complicated situation of the storehouse, firefighting and rescue operations were difficult. The officers and men bravely fought the fire and kept the crowd away from danger. At 9:37, the building collapsed without warning, leading to the death and injury of firefighters. As of this moment, the lives of 2 firefighters were immediately lost at the scene; 15 firefighters and 1 peacekeeper have been taken to the hospital to receive medial attention. Among them, 1 died after emergency efforts were unsuccessful. 2 other firefighters are still missing. No one in the crowd was hurt. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.
@人民日报 [The People’s Daily]: #Shanghai New Year’s Eve Trampling# New Year Tragedy! Trampling Accident Happens at Shanghai Bund During New Year’s Eve, 35 Dead 43 Injured — Around 11:35pm on 2014 December 31, a massive crowding and trampling occurred at the Chen Yi Square on Shanghai’s Bund in Huangpu district. As of 5am, it has resulted in 35 deaths and 43 injured. Most of those injured are students and have already been rushed to the hospital for care. The cause of the accident is currently being investigated. @上海发布 A moment of silence for those lives that will not be entering into the new year.
From Sina Weibo:
Shanghai Bund Trampling Accident Video of The Scene — This video from Southern Metropolis is so far the closest one to the scene of the incident available, as well as the one most capable of restoring the truth of the situation at the time. Basically, it had nothing to do with the showering of money [at Bund 18]. I believe the description of the person involved, that the trampling arose from some people wanting to squeeze up to get a better view of the light show and countdown (it was only 15 minutes until the countdown to midnight), while others wanted to come down. There is no conspiracy theory, the only reason for the accident: Too many people.
From Sina Weibo:
Introduction: On the early morning of the 1st, a trampling accident occurred during the New Year’s festivities at the Bund in Shanghai, resulting in 36 deaths, 25 of whom were female, and 48 injured. After the accident occurred, people nearby spontaneously linked hands and arms to block the tide of people, to give space to the injured and open a path for ambulances. All of Shanghai’s New Year’s festivities for the 1st have been canceled. Shanghai police circulate that the “trampling caused by USD being thrown into the air” story that was spread were actually vouchers, did not cause the crowding, and moreover happened after the trampling incident.