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Education Minister offers to resign after month in office

Education Ministry in a quandary over school entry age plan

Aug. 8, 2022 - 15:54 By Im Eun-byel

Park Soon-ae offers her resignation at a press event held in front of her office at the Korea Institute of Educational Facility Safety, Monday. (Yonhap)

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Park Soon-ae offered to resign on Monday, nearly a month after taking the office, overwhelmed by the controversies surrounding the school entry age reform plan.

Park is the first minister in the Yoon Suk-yeol administration to resign.

“I am resigning from my post as the deputy prime minister and education minister. I took the office wanting to give the education benefits that I had to other people, but it was not enough,” Park said, holding a press conference in front of her office at the Korea Institute of Educational Facility Safety, Monday.

“I am responsible for all the controversies, including the school entry age reform plan. I wish for a better future for our children,” Park said.

A few hours before the announcement, President Yoon Suk-yeol said, “no policy should go against the people” and “Important policies and reforms should begin from reading the minds of the people,” according to presidential spokesperson Kang In-sun.

Park’s resignation comes a month after she took office in July. The nomination raised concerns as she was caught driving while intoxicated in 2001. She was indicted to the court, but a sentence was withheld.

Park, a former professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Administration, has failed to explain the incident properly, having veered off the topic when asked about it at official events.

She was also attacked for announcing that the ministry would call for the abolition of foreign language high schools.

Meanwhile, the Education Ministry is in a quandary over its plan to lower the age at which children begin school.

The ministry left out specific mentions of plans to lower the school entry age to 5, using vague language instead, in its report for the National Assembly’s Education Committee meeting Tuesday.

“The government will provide education of quality (for children) from early on with the responsibility to ensure the stable growth and to lessen the burden on parents,” the report read, adding it will work for the expansion of child care at elementary schools.

The tone of the report was notably different from the previous one made on July 29, when it explicitly said the ministry plans to lower the school entry age to five.

On July 29, Park said she requested the president to fully consider the ministry’s report before he leaves for vacation as the school entry age plan requires “urgency,” though he called off the meeting due to schedule issues.

The ministry, however, has already taken a step back on the plan last week, following the opposition from school parents, saying it will collect opinions from the public before it decides what to do. The policy, however, is yet to be officially scrapped.

By Im Eun-byel (