S. Korean students rally against high tuition fees

14:31, June 11, 2011      

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Tens of thousands of students, activists and politicians took to the streets of Seoul on Friday, demanding the government cut tuition fees at universities by half.

The protesters had been rallying for tuition fees to be reduced for more than 10 days, and according to local media reports, Friday's turnout was the biggest so far as students of major private universities in Seoul had decided to boycott classes and join a candlelight vigil at the Cheonggye stream plaza in central Seoul.

The demonstration, joined by many lawmakers of opposition parties, proceeded peacefully despite initial worries that it could turn into violent clashes with police.

Police had banned any kind of demonstrations at the Cheonggye stream plaza and vowed to sternly deal with illegal activities.

The protesters held candles and placards that mostly read " Halved tuition fees without conditions." The atmosphere was rather cheerful, with the participants shouting and chanting loudly while watching performances carried out by activist groups.

"I think that tuition fees are too expensive for nothing. If I learn a lot from school and earn many valuable things by learning, then it's good. However, that's not the case, and I keep thinking that they are too expensive," said Kim Soo-hyun, 22, who attended the demonstration with her friends.

Among the participants were parents who share the burden of high tuition fees. "Tuition fees are extremely expensive. My first child is in college now, and the second one goes to college next year. I have to pay tuition fees for both, and it's a great burden for middle class people like me," said Jin Kwang-soo, 52.

According to the data released by the Ministry of Education, the average tuition for a private university amounts to 7.5 million won (about 6,927 U.S. dollars) this year, while that of public university is 4.4 million won.

Tuition fees have increased nearly 30 percent during the period between 2005 and 2010, nearly twice the consumer price growth of 16 percent for same period.

At the end of the demonstration, some minor clashes broke out as police blocked the protesters from marching away from the main rally site. But there were no immediate reports of arrests.

More than 80 percent of South Korean high school graduates head to university, a figure that's among the highest in OECD countries.

Source: Xinhua
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