Obama says S. Korea’s education, Internet outperforming U.S.
Published : Jan 26, 2011 - 18:34
Updated : Jan 26, 2011 - 18:34
WASHINGTON (Yonhap News) ― U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday called for reform in U.S. education and stressed the need to rebuild infrastructure to catch up with South Korea and other strong performing countries.

“Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped,” Obama said in the nationally-televised State of the Union address. “South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports.”

The government of South Korea, one of the most densely wired countries in the world, earlier in the day revealed ambitious plans to invest heavily in an effort to lead the global mobile communications industry by 2015. The plan calls for the development of a fourth-generation Long Term Evolution-Advanced (LTE-Advanced) system coupled with wireless broadband systems to offer the best mobile communication service.

Obama also lauded South Korea’s education system.

“Let’s also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child’s success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom,” he said. “In South Korea, teachers are known as ‘nation builders.’ Here in America, it’s time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We want to reward good teachers and stop making excuses for bad ones.”

Since his visit to Seoul in 2009, Obama has often talked about the education fervor that contributed to South Korea’s rapid economic development in recent decades, and has deplored the underperformance of American students, especially in math and science.

Obama has called for the U.S. to look to South Korea in adopting longer school days and after-school programs for American children to help them survive keen global competition, while he has lamented a high school dropout rate that has tripled in the past 30 years.

Obama, who repeatedly talked about the need to catch up with advanced battery technology in South Korea, attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the factory of Compact Power in Holland, Michigan, a subsidiary of South Korea’s LG Chem Ltd., in July to promote the development of clean energy technology.

South Korea last year announced plans to invest up to 15 trillion won ($12.5 billion) in rechargeable batteries over the coming decade.

South Korean, Japanese and Chinese companies control 95 percent of the global rechargeable batteries market, with Japan’s Sanyo controlling 20 percent and South Korea’s Samsung SDI Co. and LG Chem Ltd. at 19 percent each. The global market is expected to grow to $77.9 billion by 2020 from the current $12.3 billion.