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Priciest elite private high school costs over W30m a year

Nov. 19, 2023 - 15:45 By Kim So-hyun
Civic group members call for scrapping autonomous private high schools, foreign language high schools and global high schools in a rally in April last year in front of the office of then-President-elect Yoon Suk Yeol's transition committee in Seoul. (Newsis)

The average annual cost of sending a child to what is called an autonomous private high school in South Korea amounted to 8.62 million won ($6,649) last year, data released by an opposition lawmaker on Sunday showed.

The total expenses including tuition, admission fees, room and board and after-school program fees for the most expensive autonomous private high school came to over 30 million won per student, Rep. Lee Eun-joo of the Justice Party said, citing data she received from the Ministry of Education and state-funded Korean Educational Development Institute.

Autonomous private high schools, known as “jasago,” are given autonomy on curriculum, admissions and the management of faculty, and are run without government subsidies.

The jasago to which students from anywhere in the country can apply cost 12.24 million won on average, whereas the ones to which only those residing within the region can apply cost 7.47 million won on average.

With the exception of certain private schools, tuition and textbooks at high schools in South Korea have become free of charge since 2021. Parents of students at these regular high schools had to pay only about 466,000 won per year on average to the schools.

This means the average total cost of sending a child to a jasago is about 18.5 times that of sending one to a regular high school.

As for the foreign language high schools, the average annual expenses totaled 7.59 million won, while that of “global” high schools -- also called international high schools or academies for Korean national students -- stood at 4.9 million won.

The most expensive jasago costs parents 30.64 million won per year, marking the first time a high school cost more than 30 million won a year.

According to Statistics Korea, the average annual income of a non-regular worker here was about 22.57 million won as of August last year.

Amid concerns that the gap in access to quality upper secondary education can widen depending on how much the parents can afford, the Education Ministry under the previous Moon Jae-in administration had decided to turn these special high schools into regular schools from 2025.

The Yoon Suk Yeol administration reversed this decision, in line with his pledge to respect the diversity of high schools. The revision of relevant ordinances is likely to be completed by the year end to retain these special private high schools.