[EDITORIALS]Extortion, pure and simpleThe Educational Broadcasting System has sold textbooks for its study programs to high school students at a cost five times higher than that of producing the books. It has earned tens of billions of won (tens of millions of dollars), and has handed out employee bonuses with that cash instead of using it to improve its programming and the infrastructure to air them.
Some employees even received bribes of more than 10 million won from a person who sells the textbooks. Even talking about moral hazard seems shameful, because EBS is a public company.
The broadcaster started its study programs for high school students for a simple reason, to decrease parents’ spending on private tutoring by providing a cheap but quality education. This is why the programs were welcomed by people who could not afford private tutoring. That was on the surface; below it, EBS employees were busy making money by any means possible.
Because more questions on the university entrance examination are being drawn up from material in the EBS programs, high school students had no choice but to buy the textbooks whether they wanted to or not. This is literally unfair trade. The company cannot deny that it forcibly took money from young students for its own benefit.
EBS earned a lot of easy money and went on a spending spree. From 2000 until 2004, the rate of annual salary increases for employees was 16.6 percent on average. In 2004, the average annual salary for one employee at EBS reached 67 million won, 1.5 times higher than comparable salaries at other government bodies. Then the company also gave special bonuses totaling 980 million won to commemorate its anniversary.
Although some workers at EBS were responsible for the wrongdoings, the heaviest responsibility lies with the administration, which has done nothing about them. EBS has never been audited since it was founded in 1990.
Because the company was founded solely with government investment, and 30 percent of its yearly budget comes from public money, the broadcaster should be thoroughly audited.
The Korean Broadcasting Commission cannot avoid responsibility either, because it has the right to appoint senior executives at the company including the president.
The auditing and law enforcement authorities should conduct a thorough investigation and punish the people involved if any illegal activities are found.