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The Peninsula

Academic Desires Conflict with Public Health Priorities

Published December 15, 2021
Author: Korea View

What Happened

  • The Korean government adopted a mandate requiring people to show their vaccine passports when accessing libraries and tutoring facilities.
  • Nationwide polling showed overall public support for the government’s requirement for vaccine passports when accessing these institutions, but 40.4% expressed opposition.
  • Meanwhile, 76.8% supported similar measures for entry to restaurants, cafes, cinemas, and stores.

Implications: Korean society places a higher value on equal educational opportunities for children than other civil rights such as access to public places. The public response to the vaccine passport requirement is more intensely focused on access to educational institutions than in other areas of daily life. This reaction is likely further fueled by recent findings that show declining educational attainment as a consequence of remote learning. The Ministry of Education reported that 43.51% of Korean parents opposed the continuation of remote classes. These factors contribute to heightened opposition to the government’s extensive vaccine pass mandates for educational institutions despite the growing cases of the new COVID variant in South Korea.

Context: Although postponed for one month, South Korea still conducted in-person college entrance examinations in 2020. The number of test centers increased by 50 percent from the previous year to accommodate social distancing. Moreover, fewer students were assigned to each location and plastic dividers were installed between each test taker. With the public placing so much value on children’s academic attainment, the Korean government could not permit students to take these exams outside of a controlled environment as this would lead to questions on fairness. These cases demonstrate that one of the biggest considerations for the country’s public health policymakers heading into 2022 will be access to education.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Yubin Huh and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture from the flickr account of Michael-kay Park

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