The number of students who garnered admission to universities in the Seoul Metropolitan area surged to 33 this year from 12 in 2005. Gangjin High School saw some of its students enter Seoul National University for the past four straight years.
The typical agricultural area of Gangjin has a population of only 40,000. It stands 221st among the nation’s 230 administrative districts (including cities, counties and districts) in terms of its degree of financial independence. Poor education and related investments used to prompt residents to leave town. While the population had surpassed 130,000 between 1960 and 1970, it tumbled to the 40,000 range in early 2000.
Amid these conditions, Hwang Ju-hong, the county governor, made a resolution to revive the town through education. He established the scholarship foundation in April 2005 under the slogan, “Let’s prevent locals from leaving the town in search of a better education.”
Since then, up to 2 billion won was collected. Donations have become an everyday event for the residents, who range from farmers to civil servants, policemen to entrepreneurs and senior citizens.
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The foundation gives out a combined 2 billion won every year to elementary, middle and high schools in the town. Students who get accepted to prestigious universities or show excellent academic performance receive up to 4 million won each. Last winter, 30 third-year middle school students had the chance to study English in the United States and the Philippines thanks to the scholarship fund.
With the education revival, the rate of population reduction, which stood at 8.79 percent in 2002, has fallen to 0.45 percent this year.