The ruling party kept up its drive yesterday to dissuade the religious community from its movement against the newly revised private school law. President Roh Moo-hyun also expressed his will to talk to religious leaders in person. However, the opposition Grand National Party (GNP) held another large-scale open-air demonstration in Busan, continuing its outdoor campaign for seven consecutive days.
Ruling Party and Government Visited Religious Leaders-
Uri Party leader Chung Sye-kyun and deputy prime minister and education minister Kim Jin-pyo held a meeting with Lee Kwang-jeong, the top priest of Won Buddhism. Kim also paid courtesy calls to Baek Do-woong, a director of the Korea National Council of Churches (KNCC), and archbishop Chung Jin-seok of the Seoul Catholic Parish.
Director Baek, who has openly supported the revised private school law, reportedly told Kim that it was unfortunate for both parties to bicker over the passed law, and that he hoped that both parties can keep talking and announce an enforcement ordinance that can relieve the current controversy.
However, Archbishop Chung criticized the revised law by saying, Corruption in private schools can be resolved by adopting market economic principles. When a school is poorly managed, parents wont send their children to the school, and it will be forced to close down.
He also expressed his objection to the high school standardization system by saying, As national leaders come from a minority elite group, I believe equal education is not suitable for fostering leaders,
Uri Party leader Chung and Minister Kim also contacted Cardinal Kim Su-hwan for an interview, but did not see him as the cardinal was reluctant to accept the invitation.
President Hopes for Direct Talks with Religious Leaders-
The religious groups seem to worry that the private school law might infringe on the founding philosophies and managing objectives of schools, said President Roh. To resolve the concerns, we need to make careful preparations for enforcement ordinances so that they will not impede founding philosophies and school management. He also added that he hoped to hold a forum with religious leaders in person to explain the purpose of the private school law to them by himself.
Opposition Movement Goes Outdoors-
The opposition GNP held a large outdoor assembly of some 6,000 at the Busan station plaza in the presence of party leader Park Geun-hye, 30 lawmakers of Busan and South Gyeongsang provinces, party members, and interested groups in the area.
Before the assembly, GNP lawmaker Chun Yu-ok appeared on the BBS (Buddhist Broadcasting System) and alleged that the passage of the private school law was an attempt by the president to pay back his debt to the Korean Teachers Union, which helped him come into power.
The Uri Party adopted unjustifiable means in order to stay in power for not just 10 years, but for the next 100 years. It blocked lawmakers from entering the plenary session hall by mobilizing gangsters, and railroaded a bill that is favorable to them through the National Assembly, she added.