Although educational facilities are important considerations from a social equity standpoint, the educational environment generally found in rural areas has been continuously deteriorated due to numerous social problems following birth rate declines and school abolition numbers. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the commuting accessibility changed by the abolition of elementary schools. The village-level accessibility is assessed following physical accessibility criteria based on legally defined commuting distances. Moreover, this study shows the implications of commuting accessibility by school district zones through comparing the minimum commuting distances with real commuting distance. The target area is the Gangwon state, the coverage area in which for schools is the widest in South Korea (44.1 km2/school). We evaluated the commuting distances to the nearest elementary school for 992 rural villages and 74 urban villages. Of the 1,066 villages in urban and rural areas evaluated, most of the villages (about 77%) are exposed to commutes to elementary schools were the marginal distance is over 1,000 meters. The annual rate of increase of commuting distance for 1,066 villages in Gangwon state has steadily increased by 2.8%p since 2000, average commuting distance from 2.8 km to 3.6 km. By the designation of the school districts, elementary school students have to go to a faraway school located within administrative district, even though there is a school nearby. It is expected that the results of this study will be made use of as basic data for the establishment of policies such as a reasonable basis for closing schools measurements considering the locally unique environment.
Keywords: Elementary school; educational equity; accessibility; school abolition; village; school district