Since May 2013, Sacred Heart School teachers, students, and parents, as well as residents of Yongsan, Seoul, have been protesting against the decision of the Korea Racing Authority (KRA) to open an off-track betting (OTB) center for horse racing in the area.
According to the KRA, there are 30 OTB centers in different regions of Korea. The 18-storey OTB center in Yongsan is controversial because of its location. It is close to a residential area, making residents worried about safety. Moreover, less than 300 meters away from the OTB center, there are five schools, one of which is Sacred Heart School. In fact, since it is just across the road, it only takes six minutes to get to the school from the betting center.
Sacred Heart School, together with residents who comprise the Anti Off-Track Betting Committee, strongly criticize the government for approving the KRA’s move to open the betting center. Kim Yul Ok RSCJ, the Principal of the Sacred Heart Middle and High School, is a co-leader of this anti-OTB committee.
Off-track gambling, which is done by watching horse races on oversized television monitors, is being denounced for the damage it could do to students’ educational environment and the threat to their safety. Every Thursday, mass is celebrated in front of the betting center, RSCJs in and out of the Wonhyoro area participate regularly. On 28 June 2014, when the KRA did a test run of the center, some gamblers cursed protesters and threatened them. This situation required police to be deployed to the area.
Very recently, the Anti-OTB Committee and the Sacred Heart School Student Council visited the Blue House (the Presidential Residence) to deliver a letter of protest signed by more than 50,000 people and postcards written by the entire studentry of Sacred Heart School. Their hope is that the government would push the KRA to relocate their OTB Center. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, on its part, issued a statement urging the KRA to meet with the parents and teachers to solve the conflict peacefully.
The Sacred Heart School in Seoul, Korea asks for prayers for the speedy and peaceful resolution of this conflict.
Chang Kyung Ah rscj