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Tuition Aid for Diplomats` Children Abroad Under Scrutiny

Tuition Aid for Diplomats` Children Abroad Under Scrutiny

Posted October. 08, 2010 11:22,   


A Korean diplomat in a European country sent his child to an international school last year with an annual tuition of 46,802 U.S. dollars. Seoul footed 32,473 dollars of the sum in tuition assistance.

Another Korean diplomat also in a European country received 58,742 dollars from Seoul last year in tuition assistance after spending 82,618 dollars in international school fees for his two children.

The government system of generously subsidizing the secondary school tuition of the children of diplomats abroad is stirring up controversy in Korea.

Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun of the ruling Grand National Party said Thursday, “Up to 15.6 billion won (13.9 million dollars) was paid last year for the secondary school tuition of the children of diplomats abroad (including non-ministry officials who work overseas). On average, more than 20 million won (17,900 dollars) was spent per student per year.”

Yoon based his comments on documents the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry submitted to the parliamentary confirmation hearing of Foreign Minister-designate Kim Sung-hwan.

“Among the diplomats’ children, 21.1 percent attended schools whose tuition exceeded 30 million won (25,800 dollars) per year.”

Government officials in Korea get tuition assistance for their children attending middle school (62,400 won or 55.80 dollars) and high school (446,700 won or 399.70 dollars) per quarter. Because of the assistance cap on expensive schools such as independent private or special purpose schools, they cannot get more than 1.8 million won (1,610 dollars) per student.

Such assistance is possible because regulations on compensation for government officials allow full support for tuition under 600 dollars per month for officials abroad. If the tuition exceeds the limit, 65 percent of the excess amount is paid.

Because of the lack of limit, the more expensive the school, the more money they can get from the government.

Yoon said, “Diplomats are not forced to choose schools with high tuition. Instead, no limits on educational assistance encourage diplomats to select expensive schools.”

A dispute has arisen over equality between diplomats that choose schools with low tuition and those that opt for more expensive options. Yoon said even diplomats in the same country spent different amounts on tuition.

The child of one Korean diplomat in France attended a school charging 7,074 dollars per year, while another diplomat`s child of the same age and region went to a school with tuition of 39,289 dollars, an amount 5.6 times more expensive.

Tuition assistance is paid only when officials bring their child to the place they work, but in certain cases, tuition is provided if the diplomat has his or her child going to school in a different country.

Diplomats can get financial assistance while making their families stay in a third country only if they are stationed in war-torn or troubled countries such as Iraq or Afghanistan. Yet certain diplomats that do not meet this qualification get tuition assistance anyway for their children in a third country.

In other words, Seoul is supporting the overseas studies of diplomats’ children.

Yoon said, “Given its loopholes, the system is making diplomats abroad select expensive schools instead of those with low tuition. It is wrong to splurge with taxpayers’ money. This is a reform task for the Foreign Ministry.”

In response, Foreign Minister-designate Kim said, “I’ll check if there’s a problem with the tuition assistance system.”