(Source: Jinho Jung; CC BY-SA 2.0)
Update: One more reason unfettered access to student loans is so important is because only 60 out of 400 Korean universities allow students to pay their tuition with credit cards. For more on why these odd rules exist, and on Korean student loan rates and information in general, see here.
Why do Koreans generally stay at home until marriage? With some figures on the numbers of different household types in Korea now at hand, then I’ve recently been re-examining that question, but still see no reason to change my view that the combination of high rents and low wages is primarily responsible, or at least much more so that universal panacea for inquisitive foreigners otherwise known as “Korean culture.” But there are other factors of course. Consider this from Monday’s Korea Times:
Student Loan Plan Shelved
By Bae Ji-sook, Staff Reporter
A plan to allow students to get loans without their parents acting as guarantors has been scrapped, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said Sunday.
The National Assembly recently withdrew the measure since Korean civil law does not allow adolescents to make legal decisions on their own, the ministry said.
The initial plan aimed to help students who were unable to get loans because their parents were divorced or were from single parent families.
”If necessary, we will seek a revision of respective civil laws. Since its purpose is to help poor students pursue higher education, student loans should be available to more students, without barriers,” a ministry spokesman said.
Why do I suggest that this might be a victory? Well, because while the scrapping of the plan is certainly a tactical defeat so to speak, given the ministry’s apparent attitude as revealed by that last statement of theirs, then it does look like that university students will ultimately be given the opportunity to secure loans without the approval of their parents.
That students necessarily should take up the offers of loans is of course debatable, and I speak from bitter experience when I say that eighteen and nineteen year-olds of any country are not exactly well-known for their prudence and financial sophistication when given sudden access to lots of money, to be paid back in some distant future. But the only way for young adults to leave the family nest against the wishes of their parents, the move by implication meaning that they’d be – heaven forbid – openly engaging in premarital sex, as opposed to the present-day subterfuge in love-hotels that maintains their (and thus their family’s) reputations? That is of course by having the funds to do so, and sometimes an adult’s simply got to do what an adult’s go to do, debt, reputation or otherwise.
Personally, my father and I are very glad that student loans were available to me as a 19 year-old myself back in New Zealand, as we were literally very close to blows by that point, and it was simply essential for our relationship that I move when I did. Fourteen years later, both that and many other aspects of my life are much much better as a result, so much so that even if I could go back in time I’d still make the move, even with knowledge of my struggling with a mountain of debt today before me. But with no loans available, and so having to have had stayed at home instead? I shudder to think.
On a final note, I have a question for readers, particularly those with Korean partners and/or friends and/or students who are young enough to be university students themselves and/or remember how the Korean student loan system operates. Do all students currently require parental approval, regardless of their age? Obviously that would have quite an impact on their ability to leave home! Or is there a cut-off point, after which even the Korean state acknowledges them to be an adult, and responsible enough for his or her own financial decisions? My wife didn’t get loans herself, which I’m thankful for, but with that and her university days being so long ago then unfortunately she can’t remember how they operate exactly, so I’d be grateful for any information.