중앙데일리

Kong out after Supreme Court rules

Oct 30,2009
Kong Jung-tack
Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Superintendent Kong Jung-tack stepped down yesterday after the Supreme Court upheld a lower courts’ verdict that he violated a law on political funds in his July 2008 election.

In addition to the forced resignation, the 75-year-old superintendent must return the 2.85 billion won ($2.4 million) election campaign fee that the election committee redeemed after his victory. In June, the Seoul High Court handed down a 1.5 million won fine - the same verdict reached by a lower court in early March - to the first directly elected Seoul education superintendent.

Kong was indicted earlier this year for failing to disclose a bank account containing 430 million won that was kept under the name of his campaign manager. The money actually belonged to Kong’s wife. He was also charged with borrowing 109 million won interest free from an acquaintance who was the head of a cram school.

The superintendent post wields vast power, administrating an education budget of over 6 trillion won and managing some 54,000 education-related civil servants, including public school teachers. For this reason, the Seoul superintendent is nicknamed the “Education President.”

Kong was known for spearheading the Lee Myung-bak administration’s education policies focused on “autonomy and competition.” Going against policies of the previous administration that prioritized “equality,” Kong gave the go-ahead to the long-pending establishment of international high schools in October of last year. He also helped create a new system that will allow middle school seniors to choose the high school they want to attend in their neighborhoods.

Some progressive education-related groups had criticized Kong, saying his “competition-centered” education policies intensified polarization of education where students from well-off families who can afford hefty private education fees do better than those in less fortunate situations.

“We acknowledge the fact that Kong has made efforts to develop Seoul’s education, but his policies of giving more opportunities to outstanding students and emphasizing competition has confused the education scene and caused negative side effects on national education,” said Yum Min-yong, a spokesman with the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations.

Kong had insisted on his innocence, claiming losing the case would not only be his personal “dishonor” but also the nation’s. Until Kong’s official term ends next June, vice superintendent Kim Kyung-hwoi will serve as his replacement.


By Seo Ji-eun [spring@joongang.co.kr]



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