Archbishop Peter Chung of Seoul and South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol are seen during a meeting in Seoul Archdiocesan Office on Sept. 9. (Photo: Catholic News of Korea)

Sep 15 2022

Archbishop Peter Chung of Seoul and President Yoon discussed various issues including education and social welfare.

Archbishop Peter Chung Soon-taek of Seoul has urged South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol to create a national consensus in formulating and implementing the country’s educational policy to ensure equality.

Archbishop Chung made the remarks when the president visited the Archdiocesan Office on Sept. 9, Catholic News of Korea reported.

During the visit on the first day of Chuseok holiday, when Koreans visit ancestral graves to pay homage, President Yoon joined volunteers of the church-run Myeongdong Bajib soup kitchen to cook and serve meals to poor and homeless people.

Archbishop Chung said that it is essential to have an education policy based on consensus and insisted that the recently formed National Education Commission needs to ensure equal representation of various stakeholders.

“Education is the country’s century-old tradition, so it is important to determine which direction our educational philosophy should be oriented through national consensus regardless of the political inclinations,” the prelate said.

He also stressed the need to create an “educational ideology” that includes experts, and parents from all social classes to create “a national consensus that can be concretely formulated by the National Education Commission.”

Korea launched its National Education Commission on July 21 tasked with creating and implementing the National Educational Development Plan for the next 10 years.

The commission is expected to review the standards and contents of the national curriculum, collect, and coordinate public opinion on education policy, and oversee other matters stipulated by other laws of the country.

Archbishop Chung and President Yoon also discussed the social welfare activities of the Church and the government in the country.

“We focused our efforts on social welfare in the 1960s and 1980s, but now the government is also involved in it in a systematic way. So we are also turning over and looking for those in real need,” said the prelate.

President Yoon promised to ensure “that the government and the president are always by the side of those in need.”

Catholic Church in South Korea is considered a vital player in the country’s educational field as it runs hundreds of education institutes including some top-ranking universities.

South Korea, with a literacy rate of 97.9 percent, has one of the world’s highest literacy rates for people aged over 15.

A student aspiring to join an elite university in South Korea must pass an entrance exam, considered one of the toughest in the world. 

According to the Education Ministry, South Korean parents spent 19 trillion won (US$17.5 billion) on extra tuition for their children for these exams — equivalent to about 1.5 percent of the national GDP. – Vatican News