College president probed for corruption
Anyang University President Kim Seung-tae is facing an investigation by prosecutors over multiple irregularities he allegedly committed while managing the school.
The education ministry said Wednesday it has found through an audit that the 54-year-old urban planning professor engaged in 34 counts of managerial misconduct. His case has been referred to the prosecution.
This is the latest in a series of corruption cases involving managers of private schools.
Kim, a son of the university’s late founder Kim Chi-seon, has served as its president since 2002. He took office only seven years after being hired as a professor by the school’s board.
According to the ministry, Kim recruited 19 people as professors over the past three years even though they were not qualified to hold this senior academic position. In one case, the school stated in a public notice that only doctorate degree holders could apply for vacancies, but some master’s degree holders were included among successful applicants.
Moreover, two candidates who had already been eliminated in the screening process because they were in violation of the rules were appointed. Ministry officials suspect the president might have taken money from them in return for selecting them.
Kim also engaged in a questionable property deal.
The school purchased an area of land in the mountainous area of Taebaek, Gangwon Province, in October 2010 at a much higher price than its market value. It paid some 5.4 billion won for the property, but the asking price was closer to 700 million won. The school said at the time that it would build a training institute for the faculty and students there, but it remains uninhabited.
The ministry also said the university signed contracts with some 20 unlicensed firms in 2009 to renovate school buildings. It paid 3.2 billion won to them.
“Our audit showed that Anyang failed to check the qualifications of contractors when initiating large-scale construction and renovation projects. That means that there is a high possibility that the firms might have bribed school officials,” a ministry official said.
There is also a suspicion that the school’s cash reserves were misused. The school reportedly invested some 4.4 billion won in financial derivatives through financial firms. The school paid more than 300 million won in service fees to the firms, but incurred a loss of some 16 million won from the investment.
The ministry instructed the school’s board to take disciplinary measures against the president as well as some 20 school officials who were involved in the irregular deals. Otherwise, the ministry would exercise its right to intervene in the school’s operations and impose financial and administrative disadvantages, the official said.
It is also suspected that scores of Anyang students received diplomas although they failed to earn required credits.
The case in Anyang suggests that corruption in private schools remains rampant despite the government’s measures to enhance managerial transparency.
Kim is among a dozen managers and owners of private schools who have been criticized for mismanagement and their involvement in corruption cases. They include Sangji, Sejong and Chosun universities.
“Private universities account for 80 percent of higher education institutes, therefore we need to verify the integrity and morality of their owners, presidents and their family members,” an official from the Korea Association of University Professors said.
According to the education ministry, the number of private school staffers caught for corruption surpassed 2,000 over the past three years.
Audits showed that some schools have extorted money from professor hopefuls or parents of children applying to the schools. One school founder used tuition money for his private interests. Some universities were also found to have given degrees to graduates who had never participated in lectures.