Private schools loaded with corruption
By Kang Shin-who
Fairness has become a key word for the second half of the Lee Myung-bak administration, which is calling for adopting social responsibility and higher ethical standards for Korea to become an advanced nation.
However, this may not be easy when it comes to private schools here. A number of private schools including colleges have been revealed to have been involved in a variety of corruption cases.
According to audit results by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the number of private school staffers who were caught for corruption has surpassed 2,000 over the past three years.
The cases also vary ― one uncovered a school founder who employed his son as a member of a “special research team” and overpaid him an extra 17 million won.
In other cases, some private schools extorted money from professor hopefuls or parents of children applying for the schools. Also, one school founder used tuition money for his own interest.
The ministry’s auditing team found some universities gave degrees to graduates who had never participated in lectures, while some others admitted unqualified foreign students in order to earn tuition money.
A total of 2,138 administrators at 40 private schools were disciplined for corruption. Also, 277 cases were reported to the prosecution and some 40.7 billion won so far has been recovered.
Apart from this, Sangji University in Gangwon Province is in a big turmoil as school board members selected by its former owner will return to their posts. The former owner Kim Moon-gi was subject to legal punishment for admission irregularities and embezzlement.
In the wake of series of corruption cases involving private school boards, the education authorities are moving to tighten the screening of directors.
Last week, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education announced that it will thoroughly screen candidates for board directors at private schools in Seoul
Under the Education Law, city and provincial education offices have the authority to give final approval to directors at private school foundations, recommended by the schools.
As an effort to dispel corruption involving these owners and managers, the Seoul education office will look for board director candidates who are in line with the founding principles of the schools.
Song Byung-choon, inspector of the city education office vowed to prevent unqualified educators from assuming control of private institutions or appointing relatives or acquaintances to head the school body.
The lawyer-turned-inspector said there are still problematic school board members and a more thorough screening system is needed in picking up qualified directors.
The office will take measures if those who were involved in corruptions cases are appointed to the boards. The office is authorized to revoke the appointment if the director has been convicted of a crime or implicated in a graft case.