By Lee Kyung-min
Tens of thousands of secondary school students may not be able to wear school uniforms for the upcoming semester, as suppliers based in the Gaeseong Industrial Complex (GIC) are unable to deliver the goods in time after the complex was shut down due to strained inter-Korean relations.
Those students may have to wait for up to two more months to buy new uniforms, while the new semester begins on March 2.
A day after South Korea announced the shutdown of the inter-Korean industrial park on Feb. 10, North Korea expelled all South Korean workers from the complex.
According to Mansun, a uniform subcontractor to Hyungji Elite, the largest school uniform manufacturer here, more than 80,000 sets of uniforms were left behind in its factory in Gaeseong.
"When we were forced out, we were not allowed to take our products with us," an official from Mansun said. "Not only us but three other subcontractors for school uniform manufacturers were prevented from bringing the products, causing the uniform supply shortage."
Currently, their factories here are operating round the clock to meet the demand at the earliest possible date, he said.
"For uniform manufacturers, February is the busiest time of the year, a month before students go back to school. We are doing our best to help mitigate students' and parents' inconvenience," he said.
Hyungji Elite provides uniforms to 679 schools nationwide, accounting for 16 percent of the total.
Parents expressed frustration as the soured inter-Korean relations are affecting their children's school life.
"Children are meant to start the new semester with brand new clothes and new sprit. This nonsense is negatively affecting children," one parent said.
In response, the Ministry of Education recommended schools allow students to dress casually until they are able to buy the full uniform set.
"We requested schools to submit a report if students have to come to school not properly dressed due to the GIC shutdown," a ministry official said.
"Until students are able to do so, we recommend that schools allow a casual dress code," the official said. "We have been collecting opinions and reports from schools since last Friday, and we will help minimize confusion."
The ministry is considering holding a campaign to encourage students to wear secondhand uniforms from their seniors who have outgrown them or graduated.
개성공단 전면 가동 중단 여파로 일부 중·고교에 교복 납품이 지연돼 교육부가 교복 착용 시기 조정 등 대응에 나섰다.
교육부는 22일 전국 시도교육청 교육국장 회의를 열어 교복 납품 지연으로 생긴 혼란을 줄이고자 일선 학교에서 교복 납품일 조정과 착용 시기를 조정하라고 전달했다.
개성공단에서 교복을 생산해 온 교복 전문브랜드 '엘리트베이직'이 공단 폐쇄로 생산된 제품을 갖고 나오지 못해 이 업체와 구매 계약을 한 학교 중 일부가 교복을 제때 공급받지 못하고 있다.
교육부에 따르면 엘리트는 전체 학교의 15.9%인 679개 학교에 교복을 납품하고 있다. 이 중 20∼30%의 학교에 교복이 제대로 납품되지 않는 것으로 파악된다.
교육부는 정확한 납품 지연 현황을 확인하는 한편 학부모와 학생의 혼란을 최소화하기 위해 공급 차질이 예상되는 학교에 교복 납품일을 조정하고 착용시기도 연기할 계획이다. (연합뉴스)