Opposition lawmakers accused a Samsung-funded high school of operating what he called an “unfair” admissions program during a parliamentary audit on Tuesday, dredging up a months-old dispute from earlier this year.
Chung Nam Samsung Academy in Asan, South Chungcheong Province, appears to be infringing upon the people’s constitutional right to receive education by allocating over 70 percent of student openings to children of Samsung Group employees, said Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.
“Allowing the parents’ job to determine whether or not a student gets accepted to a school violates the constitutional right to fair education opportunities, while also infringing upon the right to not get discriminated against based on one’s financial standards,” he said.
Samsung Academy, an autonomous private high school funded by Korea’s biggest conglomerate, was built mostly for the benefit of over 30,000 Samsung employees in an area that was suffering from a lack of educational institutions. The regional education office, citing an insufficient budget, suggested that Samsung build an autonomous private school that required limited financing from the government.
The school became a topic of dispute in March when 81 students from the area were forced to attend school in the neighboring city of Cheonan. Although there was no evidence that the school was directly responsible for the situation, as a majority of the 81 students had applied for regular schools, civic groups filed a constitutional appeal to the school’s admission program.
About 70 percent of its openings go to children of Samsung employees, and the quota for the socially disadvantaged takes up another 20 percent, leaving only 10 percent for the regular students. Rep. Kim pointed out that because of this, regular students face far stiffer competition ― 4.7:1 ― compared to children from Samsung employees, which stands at 1.76:1.
Kim Ji-cheol, an education chief of South Chungcheong Province, admitted that there “might be some problems” related to the school. But he said that increasing the quota for regular students may result in a “black hole” effect in which Samsung Academy attracts most of the elite students in the area.
“Not all students who come from Samsung families are outstanding. If we raise the quota for regular students to, say, 20 percent, regular schools may suffer even more from a lack of high-performing students,” said an official from the South Chungcheong Education Office.
The school’s policy to receive mostly children of Samsung employees is not against the law. The ordinance on secondary education states that a school funded by a corporation to benefit its employees is allowed to set up its own special admissions program using its own criteria, if approved by the education chief in the area.
An official from Samsung pointed out that not all children of Samsung employees get accepted to the school. He said that over half of the 600 children from Samsung families in the area were also forced to go to schools in other regions, and said that much of the criticism against the school was a result of misunderstanding.
Samsung is not the only corporate body to have built an autonomous private high school for the well-being of its employees: Hyundai Heavy Industries, Hana Financial Group, POSCO and Incheon International Airport Corp. have also built and funded autonomous schools.
But Samsung and POSCO are the only companies that allocate more than 45 percent of school openings for offspring of their employees as of 2014.
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org