|A student preparing for GFOCEE is studying at the study room of Dongguk University./Photograph by Kim Ji-min|
On May 5th, 2017, Lee Jong-bae, the representative of the Retention of the Bar Examination Union, protested at Yanghwa Bridge, shouting for the retention of the national bar examination. Around this time, there was another controversy. Before the election, the Minjoo, the ruling party, announced a public service entry reform proposal about the civil service examination. Regarding the two national examinations, controversies about the way to keep equability have come to the fore.
The changes and their purposes
Previously, people were allowed to take the bar examination without a degree from the law school. However, due to the abolition of the examination, people now have to go to the law school to be qualified for the examination. Under this system, applicants will be given five chances to take the examination within five years. According to the government, the purpose of this change is to cultivate professional lawyers in various fields and attempt to lower unnecessary expenses such as training costs for the lawyers, since the existing method covers the expense from the taxes.
Earlier this year, the Korea Institute for the Future (KIF), the think tank of the Minjoo party announced the public service entry reform proposal. Formerly, Grade Five Open Competition Employment Examination (GFOCEE) and Grade Seven Open Competition Employment Examination (GSOCEE) were separated. However, the KIF announced that since applicants of GFOCEE and GSOCEE are not that different in terms of ability, it plans to combine both of the examinations. The purpose is to lower the burden of taking GFOCEE, such as time and money matters.
Everything needs to be evaluated by one’s effort
Those, who are against the abolishment argued that the reformation of the examinations could nullify one’s effort. There are diverse substances to prove the contention. By limiting the opportunities to take the bar examination, people have limited chances to show what they have learnt. Representative Lee said, “Since billions of funds are invested to become a lawyer, it is too hard to give up the examination, when we have spent a lot of time and used up our five chances.”
The discrimination of academic clique is another issue. Due to the change, students have to attend the law school so that they can be qualified for the examination. However, there are chances to be discriminated. Lee Jong-bae said, “No matter what kind of prestigious university one has graduated from, the bar examination only focuses on effort and ability, but the law school may discriminate people according to their undergraduate school.” This situation contradicts the constitution, which states that anyone cannot be segregated according to social status.
Furthermore, the tuition fee prevents him from showing his effort. Lee Jong-bae stated, “The condition of attending the law school can segregate those who suffer from the economic burden.” He continued by saying, “Usually three years of the law school, the tuition fee sometimes goes beyond 16 million won.” According to the statistical survey of the beneficiaries of the law school scholarship for the first semester of 2017, the low-income bracket was ten percent, and the high-income bracket was the superior ones. The ordinary people were not the majority for the law school because the scholarship system is mainly focused on the low-income bracket. For this reason, he claimed “Becoming a lawyer has to do with one’s effort, not with one’s economic background.”
For GFOCEE, those who want to be the “fifth-level civil servant” directly have to go through special recruitment. However, according to the reform proposal, there are several qualifications that people need in order to apply for the special recruitment. A student in the Civil Service Examination class at Dongguk University said, “If the system changes to the special recruitment only, then corruption would be everywhere.” On top of this, some of the qualifications say that the applicant must be a certified lawyer and have two years or more careers, or the applicant should have the experience of spending their high school years abroad. In reality, not many people get the opportunity to study abroad due to their financial situation. The public service entry reform proposal restricted the chances for people to show their ability, with some qualifications.
Equal opportunity for all
People who say both examinations should be abolished argue that everybody should have equal chances. The bar examination also known as a grey-wave examination, had no limits for taking examinations. Kim DoHyun, the professor of the Department of Law, said, “The system of no limits is not beneficial for the new test-takers. This is because a lot of old students take the examinations ceaselessly and the new test-takers’ possibility to get in is getting low.” The recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Justice revealed that those new test-takers who are accepted are decreasing from 1.7 percent to 0.6 percent. However, from the accepted group, the percentage of taking the examination four times increased greatly by 24.6 percent. This research shows that the examinees who are taking the test for the first time are negatively impacted, since the more prepared ones are taking over the seats. Professor Kim asserted, “In order to let the new test-takers to have the equality of the opportunity, the bar examination has to set the limit on the period or chances for the examination.”
As stated in the research paper by Chun Do-jung, the professor of Business School at Chonbuk National University stated that about 63 million won is usually needed for 4.79 years for one to be a lawyer. The burden of this expense can be too harsh for those with the family background which cannot afford the cost. This implies there is no equal opportunity for the people who suffer from financial difficulties. Their chances to try for the bar examination are not the same as those of the rich. The opportunity of equality is not guaranteed for people having financial difficulties. The survey done by The Law Journal showed that usually students spend about one or two years on GSOCEE. For GFOCEE, the students usually spend 41 months, which is 3.41 years. There is a big gap between those two. So, for the same reason, those who are not in a stable financial condition would have to endure the burden of the debt.
The issues that the government should consider
In a survey by the Ministry of Justice, 85 percent of people showed stances against the abolishment of the bar examination. For the improvement, Professor Kim DoHyun said, “According to the law, the scholarship for the law school must be given much more than the other schools.” He delivered, “Nowadays, it seems that the tuition fee is too high to be covered by the scholarships. So either the scholarship should be invested more, or law schools should decrease the tuition fee.”
Some students say that if the government wants to change the system regarding the examination, then it should reflect the test-takers’ opinions too. One of the students in the Civil Service Examination at Dongguk University said, “If the government wants to abolish GFOCEE, then a lot of students who were preparing for GFOCEE would join GSOCEE. So things such as the limit on the number of tests, examination subjects, and difficulty of the test should be managed by the government in a fair way.”
Kim Ji-min firstname.lastname@example.org
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