Eight out of 10 high school graduates go on to university, but that still remains a distant dream for children from low-income families. Although no official government statistics exist, teachers say most of the students who give up going to universities are from poor families.
The result is that their job prospects shrink even further. Even if they do get a job, they are likely to earn considerably less than university graduates. This difference results in a vicious cycle because it passes income inequality on to the next generation.
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, about 280,000 or 3.8 percent of 7.2 million elementary to high school students live off government benefits and support programs. The figure is likely to be greater if those in the grey zone are included. The average monthly cost of education for schoolchildren in Korea is W240,000 (US$1=W1,163), which is a huge burden for those who live on W500,000-600,000 of government benefits a month, despite some support such as tuition assistance and after-school programs.
Children from low-income households often have no place to go or no one to turn to with help in their studies. One of the biggest reasons why students from low-income families give up going to university is the high tuition fees, which amount to up to W10 million a year.