Publishers on Thursday said they would cease distribution and supply of this year’s textbooks, protesting a government order to reduce the price.
Korea Authorized and Approved Textbook, a body that distributes and supplies textbooks to schools, claimed the price cut would severely affect the financial health of the publishers.
“The Education Ministry is making a non-existent regulation to ‘defoliate’ educational firms and is destroying thousands of related jobs,” the KAAT said at a press conference in Seoul.
The body claimed that the previous administration’s policy to improve textbooks drove up the cost, and that the publishers would sustain losses if the ministry lowers the price.
Earlier in the day, the ministry ordered the companies to set the price of high school textbooks and some elementary school textbooks at 5,560 won ($5.19) and 4,493 won each, respectively. The new prices are 44.4 percent and 34.8 percent lower than those requested by publishers.
The prices of most elementary school books and all middle school books have already been set.
The ministry estimates that this year’s high school textbooks are about 20 percent more expensive than last year.
KAAT claimed that the ministry recommended unrealistically low prices, and accused it of failing to consider the labor costs and money spent on revising the textbooks.
Kim In-ho, the president of Kumsung Publishing Co., said the price cut was an “excessive regulation. “It is difficult to raise the textbook price when you consider competition between companies.”
The publishers say they will stop supplying the textbooks until the prices are “back to normal,” and will pursue legal action against the government order.
As wrangling over textbook prices continues, students and schools are suffering supply problems. Although textbooks have already been distributed to all schools, students who have lost their books or been transferred to another school cannot get hold of new textbooks.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)