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PSPD  l  People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

  • Socio-Economic
  • 2011.08.22
  • 3483

 

Korean civil society is actively denouncing Grand National Party member and Mayor of Seoul Oh Se-hoon’s ‘eco-friendly free school meal’ city plebiscite. So what is the problem with following this plan, and voting on allowing school children to eat healthy meals in peace? Precisely that Oh has decided to take the low road, forcing through with a vote for himself and by himself, solely intended to feed his political ambition. It is clear that Oh is the controlling force behind this plebiscite, evidenced by all the press conferences and interviews he has held on the subject. This is all without mentioning the pile of false signatures and every other type of illegal activity that have been discovered regarding the organization of the vote.

 

But there is yet another problem, regarding the points on which the plebiscite touches. The core issue
surrounding the ‘eco-friendly free school meals’ was the question of whether to provide these services to all schoolchildren regardless of income (and so establish a universal free school meal policy), or as the mayor advocates, to only fund the meals provided to the lowest 50% income group. As such one would expect the plebiscite to ask a question highlighting the difference between the ‘universal free school meal’ and the ‘discriminatory free school meal’ propositions. However the mayor has instead put to the forefront of the vote the very secondary question of the timing for the policy’s implementation, asking whether it should be gradual or all at once.

 

Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s discriminatory policies would divide the children of the rich and the poor, and
make less fortunate children feel hurt and dispirited; this is against the very principles of education.
The ‘eco-friendly free school meals’, like compulsory elementary and middle school, should be applied to all, regardless of income level. We cannot stand by and watch classmates be divided between the well-off and the less well-off, nor can we stand idly by as some children feel ever more left out, branded ‘poor’ by their own peers, and all because of school meals. The constitution of Korea is very clear in its declaration that compulsory education ought to be free as well.

 

As such, many citizens are taking action to reject this power play of a plebiscite, calling it the ‘worst
plebiscite on record’. Since the plebiscite itself is so twisted in its premises, the idea is to not go to vote at all. All around Seoul, various civil society organizations are hard at work in vote boycott campaigns.


 

Today in Seoul students in the first four years of elementary school are benefitting from the ‘eco-
friendly free school meals’ without any problems. To expand this coverage to the last two years of
elementary school would require 65.9 billion won, only 0.35% of the city budget. That is not even
one tenth of the 673.5 billion won being spent on the ‘Han River Art Island’ project, itself accused of
destroying the environment. Oh Se-hoon spends some 50 billion won a year on promotion for the
city government, and this coming plebiscite will cost taxpayers 18.2 billion won. How can civil society simply accept this? Do we really need to show our children, the future of our society, the image of their parents voting and fighting over who gets to eat? The citizens will be the final judges of Mayor Oh Se-hoon’s absurd plebiscite brouhaha.

 

Ahn jin-geol

Chief Coordinator, Social Economic Rights Team

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