[EDITORIALS]Ivied influence-peddling

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[EDITORIALS]Ivied influence-peddling

Kyonggi University is under a cloud for having allegedly hired influential politicians and senior government officials, including Kwon Roh-kap, President Kim Dae-jung's right-hand man, as professors. It paid them tens of millions of won in a bid to win part of the state-funded Brain Korea 21 project. It is surprising to find that an institution of higher education used such a method to buy connections and influence.

The university allegedly hired Mr. Kwon as a professor in September 1998 and paid him a monthly salary of 2 million won ($1,620) for 18 months. Considering that he only gave two special lectures during the period, the money he got should be regarded as a bribe. In addition, most other professors and school officials were not aware until recently that Mr. Kwon was even on the faculty. Faced with protests by Kyonggi's labor union, the university asked him to donate the money he received back to the university. Kyonggi has admitted, in essence, that its actions were wrong.

The university also allegedly hired as an assistant professor a former senior Education Ministry official who resigned from the ministry under fire. He was paid about 90 million won for 18 months although he gave no lectures ?he stayed overseas for most of the period. That also raises suspicion that the university hired him for his connections with the ministry, which is in charge of the Brain Korea 21 project. Two others, the former head of a U.S. group that supports the Kim Dae-jung Peace Foundation and a businessman, were hired; one gave no lectures and the other lectured through a proxy.

There have been controversies over alleged unfairness in the project, an educational development program running for seven years and funded with 1.4 trillion won. The Education Ministry and Kyonggi University say that the recipients of the money were selected through a "strict and fair" process and that no influence was used during the process to favor any specific university. That statement is unconvincing.

Reforming our higher education system is impossible if universities use professorial jobs to buy influence. The authorities must investigate and punish the deserving.
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