South Korea Attacks Academic Inbreeding

South Korea wants to imbue its universities with a little fresh blood. The National Assembly is expected to pass a bill this session that would prohibit universities from filling more than half of new faculty openings with their own alumni.

Inbreeding has long been a hallmark of top Korean schools. At the prestigious Seoul National University (SNU), for instance, 95.6% of the faculty are alums. Now, government officials want to reduce the in-house promotions in an effort to increase academic competition and spread around the scholarly talent.

But some administrators oppose any quota, arguing that SNU's star students are also the most-qualified professors. "The best candidates happen to be our alumni," says Lee Jung Jae, an SNU education professor. Electrical engineer Park Young Joon, however, supports the measure. The current system, he says, makes it too hard to bring in new talent.