South Korean Christians Rally Thousands against New School Reform Law

Some 7,000 Christians in South Korea began a large protest movement Thursday against the recently passed private school reform law.

The Christian Council of Korea – the representative Protestant Christian association in Korea which includes over 50 Korean Protestant denominations – led a massive prayer meeting at Young Nak Presbyterian Church in Seoul, drawing pastors, lay people and private school officials to act in opposition to the revised law that requires one fourth of the board of directors be chosen by faculty members and parents.

Affecting all religious and non-religious private schools alike, the measure aroused concerns among Christians throughout the country who said such measures would give more power to the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union, an organization they believe is made up mostly of left-leaning teachers.

Officials of private schools foundations and some parents also argued that the revision infringes upon private schools’ autonomy that is based on individual property rights. Cardinal Kim Soo Hwan, head of the Catholic Church in South Korea, stated last month that the new bill “destroys the founding principles and independence of all private schools, be they religious or otherwise," according to Ohmy News International.

Loud prayers on Thursday rang throughout the Young Nak Church among the 7,000 people gathered whose plans are to spread the movement to every region across the country. Participating Christians at the emergency prayer meeting in Korea decided to start up a petition to gather ten million signatures in opposition to the revision.

Protestant churches, Catholic churches, and private school owners criticized the controversial law, which passed parliament on Dec. 9, 2005, saying it infringes on the people's religious freedom and the protection of property rights of private foundations as the Constitution grants.

Bishop Sundo Kim, pastor of Kwang Lim United Methodist Church of Seoul, Korea, noted that communism, in such countries as China and North Korea, first began with private schools falling under the regulation of the government, according to Korea Christian Today.

With concerns looming within the Korean Christian community over further action that could be taken by the government, their fiery prayers were followed by a march with Christians holding a large wooden cross and signs that read "Abolish the private school law" and "Defend private schools."