The Korean government and ruling party opened the "Joint Conference of the Ministries of National Defense and Gender Equality" on May 31, and decided to reverse the previous military reform policy to close down the Military Nurse Officers Academy next year.
The Democratic Party spokesperson explained the decision, saying, "The economy has improved compared to three years ago, and there is a shortage of nurses in the private sector, making outsourcing difficult. Also, we felt that we should not undermine the opportunities for women to benefit from human resource development."
The previous decision to close down this Academy was lambasted by the Academy's alumni, the Nurse's Association and women groups, who called the decision "a foolish move that fails to recognize the central role of the Academy in the development of medical welfare in the military." Critics also labeled the move "gender discrimination in education," and accused the military of "selfishly making its weakest section the scapegoat of military reform."
The campaign to save the Academy has amassed the support of the Academy alumni and the Korean public. Credit for this goes to the "Emergency Committee for the Continuation of the Military Nurse Officers Academy." The Committee first launched its activities through the website (www.geocities.com/youngsinkim) that Kim Young Shin, a 16th class graduate of the Academy, received as a present from her husband Lee Sang Won when he heard that his wife's alma mater was in danger of extinction. The Committee made use of this site to launch an all-out, 5-month campaign for the survival of the Academy, which included on-line publicity activities and an on-line signature-collecting drive.
Kim Eun Ju, 13th class graduate and head of the Committee, says that she realized that only women can help themselves. The Academy was saved from extinction by the concerted efforts of not only the Academy Alumni and Nurse's Association but also congresswomen, the Ministry of Gender Equality, the KWAU, and the women's committee of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Association.
The Committee is now convinced of the "clout of the Ministry of Gender Equality," which played a decisive role in getting the Ministry of National Defense notorious for being impervious to criticism to reverse its decision the close down the Academy. During the Joint Conference, Minister of Gender Equality Han Myung Sook asserted very strongly that "the government must not destroy the chance for financially troubled women to receive national assistance in joining the workforce."
The Academy graduates, who became a more close-knit Alumni through the campaign, has shifted to high gear, saying, "Now that we've saved it, let's beef it up!" The Committee has decided to donate the funds left from its on-line campaign to the Academy's development fund. The graduates are also planning to publish a book on the history of their alma mater and its close brush with death.