By Kim Rahn
Prosecutors indicted Seoul’s top educator Kwak No-hyun Wednesday on charges of bribing a rival candidate in exchange for the latter’s withdrawal from last year’s election for the position.
Kwak is accused of giving a total of 200 million won ($174,000) to Prof. Park Myoung-gee of Seoul National University of Education spread over six occasions between February and April this year.
Following the indictment, Kwak was suspended from duty as the superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. If he is found guilty by a court, he will have to return 3.5 billion won to the state, which was given to him by the National Election Commission as campaign expenses.
“He committed a serious crime by bribing a candidate with a huge sum of money and affecting the election result. It is a clear violation of the Election Law,” a prosecutor said in a news briefing on the results of the investigation into Kwak.
“Kwak is also very likely to destroy evidence, as he and his aides attempt to cover up the crime,” he added.
The superintendent is also suspected of having appointed Park as the head of an advisors’ committee to the office also in return for quitting the election.
Prosecutors said respective campaigners for the two agreed that Kwak would give Park 700 million won, and that the former was aware of the deal immediately — an allegation the top educator denies. Kwak claims he learned about it months later and offered the 200 million won out of goodwill because Park was heavily indebted from campaign costs.
“Even Kwak admitted to making the money-for-exit deal, although he claims he didn’t know the exact amount of money or the details of other promises. It is against common sense that campaigners made such a deal involving so much money on their own without reporting to their bosses,” the prosecutor said.
“Whether Kwak gave the money in exchange for Park’s withdrawal or out of ‘goodwill’ as he claims, it is clearly an illegal act that he offered Park a public position,” he added.
Among the 200 million won, prosecutors tentatively concluded that Kwak’s wife and sister-in-law obtained 100 million won, while the superintendent himself borrowed the rest from an acquaintance. “He refused to say who the ‘acquaintance’ is, citing the person’s privacy. It was not easy for us to trace the flow of money as the money was given in cash,” the prosecutor said.
The prosecution indicted Park earlier last week, and indicted Prof. Kang Kyung-seon of Korea National Open University, a close aide of Kwak, without physical detention for delivering the money to Park.
Despite being suspended, the top educator is unlikely to step down as he claims he is innocent. Since his detention on Sept. 10, Kwak has insisted on performing his duties from jail, with officials of the educational office coming to the prison to report on office affairs.