Rules for ‘polifessors’News that Kim Chang-ho, the head of the Government Information Agency, is returning as a professor to Myongji University has become a controversial issue.
Kim applied for temporary leave after he’d worked there just one month. He wanted o take the government post. But when his term ends next month, he is planning to return to the school.
But fellow professors fiercely oppose this move, and it is unclear whether Kim can return.
Kim’s story makes us contemplate the old dilemma of whether it is okay for professors to indulge in power.
A professor’s participation in politics is old news. But we see it too often these days. The previous election gave birth to a coined word, “polifessor,” which describes a professor who becomes a politician. Hundreds of professors took a peep into the Lee Myung-bak camp and there are many professors in his transition committee. They saw that most professors who worked for Roh Moo-hyun got senior public posts once Roh got elected.
We can’t criticize professors for holding public posts, as there are benefits. In a country that has relatively few human resources, professors are high-quality personnel.
The problem is the attitude of these professors that take these public posts. If they decide to become a senior public servant, they should act like one. But most professors consider the teaching job in college as insurance. The 12 professors who served as cabinet members during the Roh administration have all applied for temporary leave, which means they will be back in their university posts.
No one had to resign.
Compare U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama. He taught constitutional law in Chicago, but before he ran for the Senate, he quit his job as a professor.
If resigning is a problem, we should have regulations that limit professors to a period of absence of two years, like they do in the States.
Sogang University has set a good example. It has allowed professors to apply for a temporary leave only once since 2005. Of course, a professor-turned-politician with a track record of success and a positive reputation behind him or her is an exception.
The quality of our political culture and national policy will be enhanced when efficient and clear regulations concerning this kind of political involvement for professors are set.
This is another way to revive the nations’ colleges.