By Kim Rahn
At least three foreign schools -- Dwight School Seoul, Dulwich College Seoul and Korea International School -- are under investigation for a large-scale admission fraud case involving dozens of scions from chaebol families, sources said Friday.
Prosecutors plan to question some 60 parents of children who have been accepted to the schools on suspicion of fabricating passports and admission documents.
They include chaebol offspring, along with children of renowned law firm members and hospital heads, the sources said.
The prosecution is examining whether the schools were aware of the manipulation. It raided the schools last week to secure evidence.
Investigators of Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office said they grilled the wife of a lawyer who works for the nation’s largest law firm Kim & Chang. A day earlier, the son and daughter-in-law of a former Hyundai Motor Group vice chairman were quizzed, too.
They are part of more than 60 parents who have been or will be summoned by next week on suspicions of enabling their children to enter the three foreign schools by fabricating enrollment documents about their nationality and periods of living overseas.
“Most of the students who entered the schools through illegal means are children of families in high-income brackets living in the affluent Gangnam district. Among their parents were the children of conglomerates and heads of investment firms, skin care clinics and a golf practice range,” a prosecutor said.
The parents are suspected of having false passports or citizenship certificates of South American or African countries, such as Guatemala, Honduras, Brazil and Sierra Leone, issued through middlemen in return for 50 to 100 million won per child. They then submitted the fake documents to the schools to gain admission.
According to the law, only children of foreign residents here or Korean children who have lived overseas for more than three years are entitled to enter foreign schools. There are a total of 51 foreign schools nationwide.
“Several of the students only stayed in those countries for three to four days to get the documents fabricated. But the majority of them have never even been to the countries,” the prosecutor said.
“Some parents claimed they thought middlemen used legitimate means to acquire the foreign nationalities. But some others admitted to the allegations,” the prosecutor said.
If the allegations are confirmed, the parents will be charged for interfering with the registration process for the schools, being subject to up to five years in prison or 15 million won in fines. Suspecting that the parents were aware of the middlemen’s document fabrication, prosecutors plan to apply additional charges of colluding in forgery, which carries penalties of five years in prison or 10 million won in fines.
Ahead of the summons, prosecutors raided the schools and four overseas study agencies on Sept. 5.
The raid was conducted after they arrested two middlemen, including a 44-year-old Park, who operated one of the agencies in southern Seoul. They forged the passports and citizenship certificates together with another middleman based in South America.
“We believe there are more agencies offering such document forgeries for large sums of money. As the investigation expands, more people may be summoned,” he said.
Officials of those schools were unavailable for a comment.
After the prosecution’s investigation finishes, the educational authorities will consider applying punitive measures to the schools and school staff in charge of admissions.