[EDITORIALS]Schools and corruption

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[EDITORIALS]Schools and corruption

The Board of Audit and Inspection announced the results of its inspection of private educational foundations yesterday. The wrongdoings at private schools include embezzlement of school funds, creating slush funds and illegal transactions: They may be worse than the crimes committed by ordinary businesses. The prosecution must investigate them thoroughly and punish violators strictly so that corruption will not spread in our schools.
But we have to take precautions so that the investigation is not used as a leap of logic to justify the moves by the governing party and the administration to resist changes to the new private school law. The investigation has been seen as a politically motivated one aimed at harassing private school foundations and owners who object to the new law. Even the timing of the announcement of the investigation results seems to be politically motivated.
The governing and opposition parties are fighting fiercely before the new private school law amendments go into effect next month. Religious groups have joined the fray. The Christian Council of Korea has pledged to launch a movement to ignore the revised private school law. Is it too much to say that the board disclosed the result of its inspection now to give support to the governing party?
We emphasize again that irregularities at private schools must be eradicated. But the revised law, which tramples on the independence and existence of private schools, mandates the appointment of outside directors and gives the government more leeway to replace a school’s directors with temporary ones is a different matter altogether. The number of private schools referred by the audit board to the prosecution after a thorough inspection is only about 1 percent of the total number of private schools in Korea. That seems like burning down a house to kill a bug. The government criticizes all private school foundations as “potential criminal groups” despite the fact that only a few of them have been accused. We should hold the educational authorities responsible. Why do they tar all private school authorities because they have not rooted out corrupt ones earlier?
President Roh Moo-hyun has already asked his party to compromise and change the new law. The party, which was buried in an election landslide last month, has refused.
If the Uri Party does not give up its complacency even after that election defeat, it will be a misfortune not only for the party but for the educational community and the whole of society.
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