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Social Infrastructure

Establishment of Kumoh technical high school

1. Background
 
As Korea began to make its rapid transition into an industrializing society in the mid-1960s, one of the greatest obstacles lying in its path was the absence of sufficiently skilled technicians and engineers. The number of skilled technicians per unit of population in Korea in 1969 was one-sixth that of the United States, and there was not much to speak of in terms of education and training for Korean technicians.[1]


Under the enduring influence of Confucianism, Koreans have traditionally regarded manual labor and commerce as less than noble occupations. It was thus very difficult to develop a program of quality education and training for technicians during this period. Even vocational secondary school curriculums were more focused on theory (or the college entrance examination) than practice. By and large the graduates of these schools ended up going to general universities rather than to specialized trade schools.


The most urgent task facing Korea’s industrialization project during this period was the development of a qualified and skilled workforce. This naturally raised the need to establish prominent schools that could change the Korean mindset in regard to technical and vocational education. In essence, Koreans needed to be reminded of the impressive technical skills and craftsmanship they had possessed for centuries even before the Japanese occupation. Thus the task involved not only creating new infrastructure and institutions, but also changing people’s value systems and perceptions.[2]
 
 
2. Details
 
The specific plan for establishing a new vocational high school originated with an initiative unveiled by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in 1970 on the creation of private schools that could provide technical and vocational education. The ministry well realized the increasing need for technical education and skilled technicians amid the national drive toward development, and thus began to contemplate measures and plans for establishing vocational high schools dedicated to teaching and training students in industrial technology.


As the ministry lacked proper authority over creating new public schools—general or technical—it turned its attention to private schools instead. It sought to develop a wholly new and independent model of education that could achieve the given goals without interference from government agencies and bureaucrats with different interests. However, a major stumbling block to the plan was insufficient financial and technical resources. The ministry thus turned to aid from Japan[3] to solve the problem, as there were few alternatives to development aid during this period. The plan for the construction of a private vocational high school was officially proposed to the Japanese government in 1970, with Tokyo ultimately agreeing to provide the necessary aid for the school.
 
 
< Historical timeline for Kumoh Technical High School >
- May 1970: The Korean Ministry of Commerce makes its official aid request to the Japanese government
- July 1970: The Fourth Korean-Japanese Cabinet Meeting is held, and culminates in an agreement on creating a technical high school through a partnership between the two countries
- November 1970: A Japanese delegation headed by the then Japanese Minister of Culture visits Korea to conduct a preliminary study
- August 1971: The governments of Korea and Japan enter into an aid agreement for the creation of Kumoh Technical High School
- November 1971: The governments of Korea and Japan sign the first-year phase of the aid agreement
- November 1972: The Korean government grants permission to build the school
- March 1973: The first admission ceremony is held, admitting 360 students in total, specializing in the five areas of machine-working, metal plate welding, metalworking, casting and woodwork, and electricity
- May 1973: Japanese teachers are appointed
- February 1974: The governments of Korea and Japan sign the third-year phase of the aid agreement
- May 1976: Japanese teachers return home

 
[1] Oh Woncheol, Korean-Style Economic Development 7: I Don’t Mean to Wage War, KIEP, Oct. 1999, p. 269.
[2] Oh, 1999, pp. 252-265.
[3] Oh, 1999, p. 268.


Source: Korea International Cooperation Agency. 2004. Study on Development Aid and Cooperation for South Korea: Size, Scope and Exemplary Effects. Seoul.