Seoul/ Gangnam: The City With Four Tools (1990-2000) 3-5 Congested Gangnam, Decentralizing Gangnam

Stated in previously, Gangnam district’s development started from having the most prestigious high schools to relocate in the area. Accompanied by the development of housing, upper and middle-class families in pursuit of education flux in Gangnam. Within fifteen years, turned the total rural area into an educational hub for both public and private education and also additional private after-school program. The relocation of the school created a specialized school district, 8th school district, which in the 1980s, for a lot of Seoul families became a guarantee to get into prestigious universities.

In 1995, the Presidential Commission on Education Reform (PCER) issued Recommendations for Education Reform to build a new education system. The overall approach of the commission was to deregulate and liberalize the education system to supply suitable human capital with diverse ability needed by the society. (Weidman & Park, 2000) Regarding the higher education, it included six policies:

  1. Diversifying and specializing the higher education system
  2. Diversifying the criteria for founding a private school
  3. Giving power to individual institutions to decide admission quotas and overall school management
  4. Making special support system for research
  5. Raising the quality of research to a world-class level
  6. Tightening the connection between university and college evaluation and financial support.

The transformation resulted in the calming down of the peaking 1980s ‘8th school district syndrome’. Since the middle of the 1990s, excellent students have been attracted by special high schools. In addition, college entrance exams were pushed to a special purpose high school and did not seem overwhelming. However, the privilege that has accumulated in Gangnam as a specialized education zone has not collapsed. Despite the disappearance of the name of “8th school district”, it continued to maintain the privilege of special education as it sends the most students to special high schools and raises the “private education (Hagwon) storm.”  Thus, since the middle of the 1990s, because of the education reformation, Gangnam has also transformed into a private education center in which schools are no longer the attractors of the population but the Hagwons. Hagwons has become the driving force for the families staying in apartments of Gangnam. (Gwang , 2016)

Private Hagwons, till now, contribute largely to the soaring price of Gangnam district’s housing price. As more family try to move to the area, the prices of real estates in the Gangnam district have risen to 300% of similar areas in Seoul. In response to the problem, in 2003 the government has once again tried to apply the successful strategy of using education as a decentralizing method. But in the case, the government was trying to decentralize Gangnam district by relocating the hagwons to Pagyoto to relieve some pressure of Gangnam. But the government canceled the plan within a couple of weeks due to the heavy criticism for shifting the problem around and not solving it.

Stated in “Relocation of Kyunggi High School in 1976 and the Birth of ‘School District No. 8’ in Gangnam” written by Jae Yeon Oh in 2015:

 “Among the general trend of polarization of society, Gangnam has now become an exclusive and closed area even to the middle class, due to its high rental and education price. Thus, class mobility which could be achieved by education is becoming harder and harder. It is one of the biggest problems that Korean society has to solve. Relocation of Gangbuk schools that started from the 1970s came up with eight school district in 1980 and became the historical turning point that threw a dilemma unable to be solved within education and hierarchical problem.”


Gwang , S. S., 2016. What is ‘8th district’ in Gangnam? Professor Oh Je Yeon traces the birth of ‘8th district’ in Kangnam. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 12 2017].

Oh, j. y., 2015. Relocation of Kyunggi High School in 1976 and the Birth of ‘School District No. 8’ in Gangnam. Critical Review of History, Volume No.113, pp. 198-233.

Park, J., 2013. Institutional Explanations of Shaping a Particular Housing Culture in South Korea:A Case Study of the Gangnam District in Seoul, s.l.: Department of Town and Regional Planning The University of Sheffield .

Park, M. J., n.d. School District 8. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 24 12 2017].

Weidman, J. C. & Park, N., 2000. Higher Education in Korea: Tradition and Adaptation. New York: Falmar Press.

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