Political Party Proposes to Abolish Top Korean University

Seoul National University gate, at night.

Education is a sensitive matter in Korean politics and often causes controversy. A recent election pledge by the Democratic United Party (DUP) has been criticised by netizens as an attempt to remove the hierarchy between universities by abolishing Seoul National University (SNU) and merging all the public universities into a single system. But this pledge does not consider private universities such as Yonsei University and Korea University which are also part of an educational hierarchy. It also fails to consider the impact on the overall standard of education at national universities. The general response from netizens in the top comments is one of outrage, with many criticising the plan as rash.

From Joong-Ang Daily:

Democratic United Party Considers Presidential Election Pledge to abolish Seoul National University

Merger of all national and public universities in the country

Yong-Seob Lee of the Democratic United Party, who is the chairman of the Policy Planning Committee, announced on July 1 that he was considering a presidential election pledge regarding a merger of all national and public universities. This includes effectively abolishing Seoul National University (SNU).

During a press conference on this day, he said that ‘we are discussing a plan to establish a national university at each province, while specialising rest of the universities.’ He explained that they aim to combine the existing Seoul National University, Kyungpook National University and Chonnam National University into a united system; within the system, free exchanges of lectures, credits and professors would be allowed and joint graduation certificates would be given out.

Students in the library at Seoul National University

‘In the US, the California State University is divided into campuses in places like Berkeley, LA and Irvine. Also in France, the national university is operated in a system based on individual campuses such as University of Paris 1 and 2,’ he added. ‘Likewise, existing universities would have their names removed and regional campuses of the national university would be established in Seoul, Gyeongbuk, and so on, so that SNU would be all over the country,’ he explained.

The Democratic United Party is also reviewing a measure to remove undergraduate courses from the future Seoul campus of the national university, and to promote its specialisation in graduate courses, in order to prevent the Seoul campus from functioning as SNU presently does.

‘We are also considering equipping the Seoul campus with undergraduate courses in only in the basic sciences, and dispersing several general undergraduate courses into campuses in different areas, to avoid concentration of all the talented students into the Seoul campus,’ he added. The idea of merging all the national and public universities has usually been put forward as an election pledge for education from the New Progressive Party, who claim that the measure will alleviate the tendency to rank universities, reduce difficulties in entering university, normalise high school education and help different regions of the country to develop more evenly.

Among the candidates of the presidential election, Hak-kyu Sohn (Permanent Advisor) has promised a ‘joint diploma from SNU and national non-Seoul universities’ while Kyoung-tae Cho (member of the National Assembly) has put forward ‘abolition of undergraduate courses from the SNU and turning it into a university mainly for graduate studies.’

Comments from Nate – Joong Ang:


Is there nothing but shit in the heads of those DUP kids….?? You guys will probably be far better off in the election if you stayed quiet… Ignorant things…


Let’s get rid of Tae-hee Kim in order to eliminate lookism! Let’s kill Kun-hee Lee to remove the gap between the rich and the poor! Let’s eliminate Yuna Kim to standardise the figure skating skills of the population! Let’s erase Mount Everest from the Earth to make the entire world flat! Let’s bash the super computer to remove the difference between computers! DUP says: if you standardise the the super computer with normal computers, you make many super computers. Ho ho ho….


What about a plan to abolish the DUP?


It’s a pledge fit for the undereducated commies.


I didn’t go to the SNU but this is honestly wrong ;; The SNU kids tried so hard [to get in there].. Don’t waste your time on this shit, but get rid of useless private universities instead


What the SNU can do to survive: change its name to ‘Kim Dae-jung University’ [as a parody to Kim Il-sung University in North Korea]


The Saenuri Party is sure to win this presidential election ke ke ke ke ke ke ke They [the DUP] are cutting down the votes for them ke ke ke ke


Do they really can’t think of anything better? ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke It’s like saying they’re giving up on the presidential election


OMG ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke Why the hell would you abolish the SNU ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke ke Instead get rid of those useless universities that don’t live up to the title ‘university.’ This is really idiotic


In France the general university is divided into University 1, 2, 3 etc named according to the city they are in. But there clearly is an education system known as Grandes Ecoles training the elite students, who then become the few brains that lead the country. Without such system in mind, is the DUP planning to make every Korean student a fool by downward standardisation? Are they crazy or what? The DUP is really not right, I think..


Dear DUP, since you hate the 1st place so much, I hope that you keep the 2nd place in every single election.


Soon they’ll start rationing food out.


Do you call this ‘fishing in troubled water’? The Yonsei and Korea Universities would be happy that they move up the rank automatically from the 2nd place to the 1st kekeke Oh my, the DUP ke ke ke ke

Comments from Nate – Hankyoreh:


The idea comes not from a single person but from many people in the DUP……….. What’s happening? Everybody knows that the policy will fail and is completely outrageous – why doesn’t the DUP know?


Will the competition between universities disappear if the SNU is abolished?? On the contrary, all the good students will dash out of the country, I bet!! Policies on education should be changed; changing the schools and universities doesn’t solve anything! It’s not only because the SNU is a good university that I feel my university is not so good. Wouldn’t it be because there are absolute problems, not comparative ones, within the universities?


Rather than abolishing the SNU, the first thing to do is to remove universities that don’t have a raison d’etre and do not teach their students properly. It’s a fact that the number of freshers that universities can accept is greater than the number of students graduating from high schools.. In this country you can go to a university even if you’ve been idle the whole time, and this system automatically creates a hierarchy of universities. It’s this system that needs a change, but they are trying to flush out a university with lots of good students; it’s like proving their own lack of understanding of the problem.


Think in the shoes of students who are smart enough to go to the SNU. Where would they go if there’s no SNU any more? Would they lower their standards and go to a national university? They wouldn’t unless they’ve gone crazy!! Why would they, when they can be attracted by tuition fees and student loans?? They would definitely choose Yonsei and Korea Universities, unless crazy!! Even when the SNU is standardised downwards, will Yonsei and Korea Universities be the same? There is zero possibility that they will follow suit and lower their standards, because they would never go down the rank but they might go up!


The DUP has a wrong way of thinking to start with… Rather than doing away with the SNU they should consider making another university like the SNU.. Likewise, rather than getting rid of Gangnam and Samsung they should think about developing the 2nd Gangnam and Samsung… Lives of the majority public are not likely to improve even if these things were simply removed… Rather, they will worsen… So stupid


The SNU is not just a standard of a high-calibre university, but is a symbol of the best Korean university. And they want to abolish such an ivory tower???? Do they think it’s right to blindly follow the developed nations? I don’t think the politicians of this country understand that even good medicine can create different effects depending on who takes it.


There are only a few universities in Korea with international standards, and among them [the SNU] has lower tuition fees and actually give proper training to their students. The idea of getting rid of that university is simply crazy. It takes long to establish tradition; I wonder what hidden intentions those people have when they talk so easily of the grand tradition that spans 100 years, tut tut. Is the idea really for the benefit of the country and its people? Wish they’d think deeper…..

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  • Michelle

    As a Seoul National University student, I oppose this, too bad I can’t vote *^.~*

  • Brett Sanbon

    Heirarchy will always remain. Even if every university taught the same curriculum with the same facilities and same quality of teachers, students will still consider schools in Seoul to be better. The offices will still prefer to hire people who were educated in Seoul.

    And even if there is no university heirarchy, you still have those messes, also known as middle and high schools. You will still have parents who force their kids to go to hagwon until 11pm and then continue studying at home until the wee hours of the morning. You will still have an unfair 1-test system, which is a fluke. And you will still have students that would rather study abroad after high school, maybe even more.

  • Beth

    This reminds me of all those old attempts to create a meritocracy during the Yi dynasty… Anyone could sit the civil service exam in theory, but in practice only those who could afford the right tutor passed.
    While it’s nice to think that barriers to education at that level could be removed, the very idea that an SNU education is something that everyone ought to aspire to hardly removes the idea of hierarchy. And anyway, private universities will still uphold the hierarchy fairly well without SNU. Nature abhors a vacuum.

  • redwhitedude

    The idea is too radical. Messing with SNU will cost them dearly. However if they had said merge certain public universities into a public school system a la SUNY, UC or Cal state then it may be more acceptable.

  • Yu Bumsuk

    They’re completely missing the mark. They really need to change the high school testing system that universities use to determine whom to admit. If, say, they cut it down to students sitting only four or five subjects it would allow high school students to concentrate on subjects in which they have more interested and aptitude. Then top universities wouldn’t be excluding students because they happen not to be great at English or mathematics even though they have considerable talent in other areas.

  • mr. mike

    This plan will never work, but it would be interesting if they tried it….screaming alumni, professors bellowing, the works. Would make hours of interesting YouTube clips.

  • Sunshinefiasco

    This is hilarious. They can link the Unis together and share some resources without joint diplomas or diluting SNU– look at the Cal system they claim to base the idea on. The schools have separate admission standards, and UCLA/Cal Berkeley degrees are worth more than UC-Santa Cruz/Riverside/Santa Barbara. Linking unis could be useful, but I just can’t figure out why they picked the most ridiculous incarnation of the idea.

  • Paul

    They’re missing the mark in a different way altogether.

    The word “university” [대학교] needs to be protected by law as it is in most other nations. Do this, and include conditions that remove quota based grading and automatic passes for those who pay fees on time and SKY (plus KAIST and Potech) will no longer be the only universities people will strive to get into.

    At present, the ultra-competitive education scene is largely a matter of supply and demand. Great demand for places at internationally recognised universities, but not enough universities to go around. I’d really love to see the stats of how many freshman places there are per capita in unis that fit international guidelines in Korea vs, say, America, Australia or the UK.

    And yeah, sorry Genesis: Chi-dae would have to be renamed. XD

  • 참을수없는가벼움

    The thrust of all kinds of enducational problem is the low quality of public education. Whether it id exorbitant private tutoring cost or obsession with admission to prestigious univerisities, strengthening pulic-education quality is the key to education matters. If the enhancement is so strong that under an improved public educaton system, any students, from wealthy or poor families, can achieve academic performance they want to without external aid like private tutors, all vociferous debates over educational problems will, I think, pacify themselves.

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