For many centuries, Confucian doctrine has permeated social structure and social life in Korea. Education and higher studies have therefore had high status, but it has been an opportunity for only a small elite.
In line with South Korea’s economic development from the late 1950s, the education system has evolved, and a long education for all has become something that is prioritized in the state budget as part of strengthening the nation’s competitiveness.
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The nine-year compulsory, free schooling begins at the age of six and includes a six-year elementary school and a three-year high school. Prior to compulsory school, most children go to preschool, private and fee-based. The compulsory school places the greatest emphasis on Korean, mathematics and science. English is a compulsory subject from year three and can already be found in preschool. High schools are fee-charged and usually private.
Until very recently, the teaching was focused on memorizing factual knowledge. New curricula have now been introduced to change documented problems of lack of creativity and independent thinking. There are more than 200 colleges and universities in South Korea, and no other country has an equal share of citizens graduating.
Internationally, the University of Korea is not very successful. In a world ranking in 2011, only four universities were among the top 200 in the world.
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On May 22, 1991, President Roh hard-pressed accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Roh Jai Bong. It had been demanded by the student movement and moderate wing of Kim Dae Jung’s party after student Kang Kyung Dae died in police hands, which had triggered another 6 self-ignitions. In September 91, US President George Bush announced the decision to withdraw the superpower’s tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea, and in November it was announced that the retreat was being completed. The move met one of the most important demands of the North Koreans to allow inspection on their territory. In December of that year, Seul and Pyongyang signed an “agreement on reconciliation, non-aggression, exchange and cooperation”, reducing the tension between the two countries.
At the March 1992 parliamentary elections, the ruling Liberal Democratic Party won 149 of Parliament’s 299 seats – one too few to get an absolute majority. It was followed by the Democratic Party, which received 97 seats with 29.2% of the vote. In third place, the new National Reunion Party gained 17.4% and 31 seats. The Leftist People’s Party got 1.5% of the vote, but no seats.
President Roh Tae Woo appointed Kim Young-Sam as his successor. Kim got 41.4% of the vote in the presidential election on December 18, 92. It was the first election in the 30-year period in which the military controlled the country, where it did not stand. This ratio stimulated turnout, reaching 81.9%.
The election of Kim coincided with a weakening of the opposition, which was reinforced in February 93 when the leader of the United People’s Party, Chung Ju-Yung, had to resign after being accused of receiving illegal contributions from a large group under election campaign.
The corruption scandals also affected the government. One of President Kim’s supporters, Choi Ki Son, admitted to being scammed with public funds. Furthermore, the leader of the largest Buddhist order in the country, Suh Eui Hyun, was accused of receiving $ 10 million from a businessman. They were to be handed over to President Kim. The allegations led to clamor between the Buddhist monks, culminating in the arrest of 134.
In 1995, the two ex-presidents Chun Doo Hwan (1979-1988) and Roh Tae Woo (1988-1993) were arrested for their participation in the coup d’etat, which brought Chun to power in December 79. They were further charged with treason and unlawful enrichment.. In June of that year, the government party was beaten by local and provincial elections – the first since 1961 not controlled by the government. The collapse of the Sampoong department store in Seul cost over 500 people their lives. It also brought new corruption to light, when it became known that the local authorities had approved the building of a 5th floor after receiving bribes.
In April 96, the ruling party for the new Korea won 139 out of Parliament’s 299 seats. The National Congress for a New Politics won 79 and the United Liberal Democrats 50. In December, Seul City Court sentenced former Secretary of Defense Lee Yang-ho to 4 years in prison for receiving bribery from Daewoo – the country’s fourth-largest company.
Two days after being elected president, Kim Dae Jung in December 97 approved the release of Chun Doo Hwan and Roh Tae Woo, announcing at the same time the implementation of an amnesty for political prisoners. The newly elected president took office in March 98 and appointed Kim Jong Pil as prime minister. The country was also plagued by the risk of hyperinflation and rising unemployment as a result of the stock market crisis in Southeast Asia.
Despite military meetings only a few weeks in advance, representatives of the North and South met in Beijing to discuss various issues, including financial assistance to the North and the possibility of establishing representation offices in each of the two countries’ capitals.