Korea closes language schools as Covid-19 hits hagwons

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The Metropolitan Government of Seoul at the end of May ordered a programme of “special inspections” of the mega-city’s roughly 12,000 English-medium kindergartens, 343 language institutes and 263 of the larger hagwons – private after-school English “cram schools” and test prep centres, according to the Korean Herald.

Korea’s policy of mass testing and contact tracing has kept its Covid-19 death toll relatively low. While it closed state schools with the coronavirus lockdown, Korea kept private English kindergartens and hagwons open.

The “special inspection” order follows the discovery that a hagwon teacher in the city of Incheon had passed on the coronavirus to students and colleagues. Hagwons that fail health inspections face “administrative action.”

Some recent easing of Seoul’s lockdown measures was reversed following the ‘Seoul night club cluster’, when the brief reopening of night clubs in the Itaewon district caused a spike in coronavirus infections. Six foreign hagwon teaching assistants had since come forward to report their visits to Itaewon clubs to the authorities.

Image courtesy of Korea Times
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Matt Salusbury
MATT SALUSBURY, news editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also joint Chair of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor, most recently at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.