Appellate court sentences Seoul education chief to prison
A Seoul appellate court on Tuesday sentenced the city's education chief Kwak No-hyun to a one-year prison term for bribing a rival candidate to drop out of the 2010 election, saying the 30 million won ($26,337) fine given to him by a lower court was too light.
The Seoul High Court, however, has deferred the prison sentence until the Supreme Court rules on the case, meaning Kwak can continue to serve as Seoul's education chief until then.
Kwak, a liberal candidate, was elected as head of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education in 2010 by a narrow margin. He was later found to have paid 200 million won to a rival candidate.
Prosecutors twice sought a four-year prison term for Kwak, citing the gravity of the crime and what they called a biased sentence compared to previous rulings on similar cases.
"A sum of 200 million won is a huge amount compared to previous cases of violations of the election law, and Kwak gave the money for his own comfort in exchange for the (rival) candidate's resignation, making the original sentence too light and unjust," the Seoul High Court said in a ruling.
Kwak has continued to claim he is innocent, saying he was unaware of the exchange that took place between his aides and the rival candidate, Park Myoung-gee, a professor at the Seoul National University of Education. Kwak has claimed the money was a gesture of "goodwill" toward Park, who incurred substantial debts from his unsuccessful election campaign.
Park withdrew his bid just a few days before the election, helping consolidate liberal voters' support for Kwak.
The court also reduced Park's sentence from a three-year prison term to one and a half years, in addition to a 200 million won fine.
It also upheld a lower court fine of 20 million won for another college professor who delivered the money to Park. (Yonhap)