Three-line Slippers Blues
In Korean school, there is the most favorite thing that every student loves. That is the three-line slipper. This product is an imitation of the well-known sporting goods. Surprisingly enough, it is much more popular than the original one and it becomes a kind of cultural thing among Korean students. I think this cultural phenomenon is the reflection of our education system because there is a similarity between them. So to speak, Korean education system has just copied the curriculum from other developed countries’ and it has changed more than eight times since 1955. Even worse, it is not systematically examined by the policy makers and they have reproduced the education system without any sincere introspection. So the current education system is not our own. It is something borrowed or fake, not the real one.
Over the past few decades, the whole person training including intellectual, moral and physical education is one of the main purposes in Korean education but it turns out to be an illusion. However, ironically, what Korean students have learned from the school is Desire, Competition, and Adaptation. So my questions start from here. Why are Korean students aiming at seeking material value? Where are the original purposes of the education? When was the time Korean education lost their originality and started to copy others?
For years, I have observed the process how the students can learn about their desire, competition, and adaptation in the school which needs to pursue an educational value. At first, I think it is because the school itself has limits but it is not. Moreover, it is not because of the systematic problem. That’s because the implanted value to students is internalized and intensified by students themselves. So, it seems that this educational phenomenon keeps reproducing itself increasingly.
As a history teacher and photographer, my primary concern is based on inner side of my students and I want to record their pain through the school life and the process of their socialization. So, finally, I expect to empathize on their voices and try to help them find their self-realization.
Everlasting transition period
I have started my career as a teacher and photographer for 10 years.
I have always focused on the trend of the times about the school for my photography, and I realized that the school itself needs to be changed a lot but ironically it is not permitted to be changed.
Every year, the students changed fast, but the school system can not follow their changes properly.
That is not the only responsibility of the teachers’ pre-modernism.
I have observed that the teachers also try to live and adopt in a new era.
But unfortunately, they can not break the frame of current educational system.
In my opinion, Korean school is a continuous time of transition. So I decided to call it ‘Everlasting transition period’.
We claim to support the students’ rights but it is not permitted nationally. Still the hair length regulation is implemented, and the penalty points replaced physical punishment.
Totalitarian elements are the same like the past. Some schools still give a military salute during their assembly.
In the school, students are not allowed to have their smart phone, but ironically educational policy makers insist ‘Smart Education Strategies’ recently.
Under the admissions officer system, the students’ skills and interests are being discovered in college entrance. Nevertheless, according to the test score, some of the students reacted with joy while others with disappointment. Still ‘the College Scholastic Ability Test’ and ‘the school records’ are important for them.
Some of the students are bullied, and they can not mingle with others.
Every night, the students do the self-study and it is compulsorily but we call it ‘autonomous self-study’. Through the limitation of collective education, it is more like a military or a concentration camp.
The schools want their students to act consistently. Through the process, the students need to be only a member of a school, not their self.
When I was a student, my school is in a time of transition but surprisingly, when I come back to school as a teacher, it is almost the same.
It is unrealistic that the things which was experienced by the generation of the 70s or the 80s are still existing.
In this time of transition, the new generations – the students of the 2000s – have learned the old customs as well as the elements of socialization and they have tried to continue a different time of transition again.
Some students try to break down an old custom but in my opinion, current education system is not properly accepted their creativity and possibility.
Because the system regards their creativity as deviation from the previously accepted norms. So most students give the highest priority for adaptation of the current system, not showing their creativity.
Though I am the little one who can not break down this continuing and everlasting transition period at once, I think it is important to record this process and pursue changes step by step and that’s my job as a photographer.
The real schools have opened to the public, although the specific things in school have not revealed yet.
So I have honestly recorded the real schools, students and their voices continuously.
Seok-jin Kim was born in Korea in 1979, graduated Kyungsang national university, majoring in History education and now he is a history teacher in a highschool. He was awarded young photographer’s award in 2011 and Onbit documentary award in 2012. He had solo exhibition ‘Everlasting transition period’ in 2013 and “Three line slippers blues’ in 2014. He is concerned about education problems in Korea and has documented them since 2005.