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Students threaten to boycott classes over rising tuition

Student bodies at four universities agree on alliance

The student councils of four major universities in Seoul agreed Tuesday to vote on class suspension in a campaign against tuition fee hikes.

The four schools are Korea University, Sogang University, Sookmyung Women’s University and Ewha Womans University. On June 2, students at Hanshin University skipped classes, calling for a tuition reduction.

“We shaved our heads and staged a hunger strike to demand the half-priced tuition, which the Lee Myung-bak government promised first. But the government has kept deceiving us,” they said in a joint statement.

“The class suspension is not intended to abandon study. We have agreed on it as a way to continue study,” they said.

If the proposal is approved in a student vote on Wednesday and Thursday, they said, they will refuse to take classes on Friday and join a massive rally in Gwanghwamun Plaza, central Seoul.

While a group of students and activists had already held a tuition rally for 10 consecutive days by Tuesday, the June 10 gathering, which will also commemorate the democratization movement of June 1987, seems to be a turning point in the ongoing move for half-priced tuition.

As most college students are preparing for this semester’s final exams for now, however, the prospect of their active participation was still mixed.

Halving college tuition was one of Lee’s major campaign pledges. However, unfavorable economic conditions have forced him to shelve the more for the past three years.

After the ruling Grand National Party suddenly renewed discussion of the pledge late last month, social and political disputes have been growing fiercer.

The GNP’s new plan targets students from low-income households at the bottom 50 percent on condition that subsidies will be offered only to those whose grade point average is higher than B.

However, civic groups and opposition parties have claimed that the subsidies should be given regardless of family income, covering at least 80 percent of students.

They also say that considering that most universities grade students on a relative scale, only 25 percent of students can receive the benefits under the GNP plan.

The 2 trillion won ($1.85 billion) budget, proposed by the GNP, is also criticized for being insufficient to cover the at least 6 trillion won needed to implement the half-priced tuition plan.

By Lee Ji-yoon (