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(LEAD) Moon against discussing permanent change in academic calendar, Cheong Wa Dae says

Politics 17:56 March 23, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with details; MODIFIES headline)

SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in expressed a negative view Monday about formally considering a change to South Korea's academic year in response to a call for a review of whether to introduce the autumn semester system.

He said it's "not desirable to discuss" the issue in connection with the current situation, receiving a report from Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae, according to Cheong Wa Dae's deputy spokesman Yoon Jae-kwan.

Yoo, who doubles as deputy prime minister for social affairs, briefed Moon on administrative preparations for opening elementary and secondary schools next month.

President Moon Jae-in (2nd from L) receives a briefing from Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae (2nd from R) at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on March 23, 2020, in this photo provided by Moon's office. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

They were supposed to open on March 2 after a monthlong winter break. But the government postponed the start of the semester till April 6 as part of efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In South Korea, the new academic year begins in early March, unlike in the United States and many other major countries.

Some students and parents have complained about the mismatch amid lingering concerns about huge social costs and other inconveniences in case of a shift in the academic calendar.

Moon's message represented his first official response to the controversial offer. It apparently reflected his resolve to focus on containing the virus and putting schools back in normal operation as early as possible.

He instructed the education authorities to make thorough preparations for the opening of the spring semester, especially in the supply of facial masks for students and teachers.

Yoo reported to the president on online education and child care systems in operation for the delayed school opening.

She also said her ministry would later decide whether to press ahead with the school opening on April 6, taking into account various factors, such as trends in regional and daily infections, school authorities' capabilities to control the virus, public opinions and supply of quarantine materials.

The ministry plans to have relevant consultations with the country's health and quarantine authorities for the decision.


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