Top Seoul educator questioned over bribery
Top Seoul educator Kwak No-hyun is surrounded by supporters and opponents as he enters the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in southern Seoul, Monday. Prosecutors questioned Kwak over his involvement in a bribery scandal. / Yonhap
By Na Jeong-ju
Seoul’s top educator Kwak No-hyun reiterated Monday that a payment to a rival candidate was not in return for his withdrawal from last year’s election, but a token of “goodwill.” Kwak says he has put himself on the line to reveal the truth about the ongoing bribery scandal.
The remarks indicate that the former law professor may wage a legal battle against the prosecution as well as the liberal candidate, professor Park Myoung-gee of Seoul National University of Education, who alleged that he dropped his bid after Kwak promised to pay him to do so.
“It’s regrettable that my goodwill is being misunderstood,” Kwak told reporters as he left his office Monday morning to face questioning at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office. “I’ll stake my reputation on revealing the truth. I apologize to all people who are concerned about me.”
Arriving at the prosecutors’ office at 11 a.m., Kwak, flanked by his lawyer, posed for cameras but refused to respond to questions from reporters.
The 57-year-old liberal educator was grilled over suspicions of bribery.
Kwak earlier admitted giving 200 million won ($185,000) to Park this year, but insisted that it was not related to the election and was aimed at helping Park who had been suffering from heavy debts he incurred in his own campaign. Kwak was elected to the top educator’s post as a unified liberal candidate.
The prosecution allege that Kwak initially promised to pay a total of 700 million won in return for Park’s withdrawal from the race. It says it has secured enough evidence to show his bribery.
After the questioning, prosecutors will determine whether to seek a court warrant to take Kwak into custody for further investigation.
If convicted of bribing the rival candidate, a violation of the Election Law and punishable with a fine of over 1 million won, the Seoul education chief will be stripped of his post.
Earlier, the prosecution quizzed Kwak’s aides who helped with his election campaign last year as well as his wife and her sister who allegedly helped deliver the money to Park.
Conservative and liberal groups held rallies of their own in front of the prosecutors’ office as Kwak arrived.
Conservatives called for harsh punishment and Kwak’s immediate resignation, while liberal groups criticized “political” prosecutors for conducting what they called an unfair probe against liberals.
Kwak’s lawyers claim that the prosecution has revealed the progress of its investigation to certain conservative dailies to affect public sentiment toward the liberal educator.
검찰은 5일 서울시교육감 선거 후보단일화 뒷돈거래 의혹을 받고 있는 곽노현 교육감을 불러 조사했다.
출석에 앞서 곽 교육감은 교육청을 나서면서 “선의가 범죄로 곡해되는 것에 대해 저의 전 인격을 걸고 진실을 밝히겠다”며 검찰과의 치열한 법정 싸움을 예고했다.
곽 교육감은 이날 오전 11시 서초동 서울검찰청사에 출두했다. 그는 취재진을 향해 잠시 포즈를 취했지만 2억원의 대가성과 돈의 출처 등을 묻는 질문에는 아무런 언급 없이 변호인과 함께 곧장 9층 조사실로 향했다.
이에 앞서 곽 교육감의 변호를 맡은 김칠준 변호사는 중앙지검 현관 앞에서 "검찰이 언론에 피의사실을 공표하고 있다"고 비난하면서 "아무리 곽노현 교육감에 대한 사건이라고 해도 엄연한 형사소송법의 기본원칙과 검찰 스스로 정한 인권수사준칙을 지켜야 진실을 밝히는 데 도움이 될 것"이라고 주장했다.