The following is the fourth in a series of articles on the major tasks and key members of President-elect Park Geun-hye’s transition team. ― Ed.
Improving the education system, enhancing science and technology research and building an innovation-driven economy form a key part of President-elect Park Geun-hye’s economic strategy.
Kwak Byong-sun, key architect of her educational reform, and Chang Soon-heung, Korea’s top nuclear power scientist, are in charge of laying the groundwork for the vision for future growth as the leaders of the presidential transition team’s subcommittee on education, science and technology
Kwak, 70, a former president of Kyung-in Women’s college, has long been a policy adviser for Park.
He worked previously for the presidential advisory committee on educational reform and also for the education ministry’s policy advisory committee.
While working as a member of the ruling Saenuri Party’s committee for the presidential election, he has helped Park introduce new ideas, including her pledge to allow middle-school students to spend a semester without tests.
The idea of removing all tests and evaluations is to allow young students focus on career planning. It is not clear how or when the curricula will be introduced, but Kwak is expected to discuss the plan in detail when he receives briefing from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology on Tuesday.
The subcommittee is also working on measures to strengthen public education and curb private education costs that weigh heavily on households.
The team is mulling over a plan to introduce new textbooks for secondary level. Park has said new textbooks will be upgraded to allow students to study without the assistance of private lessons. Park plans to impose a new rule prohibiting primary and secondary schools from writing exam questions that require students to study ahead of their educational level.
Her educational policies also include expanding the physical education curriculum for elementary, middle and high schools, and reducing the burden of tuition fees by increasing government support to students from low-income families.
Chang, 59, a professor of Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, is guiding Park’s vision on science and technology development.
Chang obtained a doctoral degree in nuclear engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1981, and has been working as professor of nuclear quantum engineering at KAIST since 1982.
Chang, a leading authority in nuclear study, served as president of Korea Nuclear Society from 2011-2012 and chairman of the national advisory committee on nuclear safety.
He is believed to be strongly in favor of the development of small-sized commercial nuclear reactors for future growth.
The most urgent task for him is to outline the structure and function of the government to reflect Park’s vision for a creative and technology-driven economy.
An engineering graduate herself, Park prioritizes developing the software industry, supporting start-ups and establishing a new science and technology ministry.
“The creative economy doctrine calls for managing the economy on the basis of imagination, creativity and scientific technology to produce a new force for growth and to create new markets and jobs,” Park said in mid-October during a major speech outlining her industrial policies.
Park believes that building a “creative economy” will require a powerful new ministry to oversee the country’s science and technology policies and industrialize innovations.
It is not yet clear what authority the new ministry will have and how it will be split from the current Ministry of Education, Science and technology.
In addition to Kwak and Chang, Park has selected five special advisers, including Science and Technology Policy Institute president Song Jong-guk and SNU professor Na Seung-il, to join the subcommittee.
By Oh Kyu-wook (email@example.com