Corruption in educationThe Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education is embroiled in a serious corruption scandal. Eleven regional school heads and senior administrative civil servants have tendered their resignations, citing morality. It is an unprecedented event in the education community in Korea.
The allegations against the city’s education authorities read like classic examples of corruption. They include charges of graft related to staff promotions and charges of bribery linked to school construction contracts. In addition, civil servants that always campaigned for the same superintendent and school headmasters pocketed kickbacks from after-school program operators looking to win contracts.
What kind of role models are these people setting?
That the future of our young people is in their hands is unthinkable.
These education officials have taken the extreme measure of tendering their resignations simultaneously. But their motivations are obvious. Their actions reek of exhibitionism, with no signs of remorse or rectitude. The officials are all specialists in the education field and they could be assigned to other schools during the regular appointment period next month.
Meanwhile, high-ranking officials in the city’s education office, who are supposed to be providing oversight to prevent incidents such as this from occurring, are looking the other way. The mass resignation is no more than a ploy to keep their heads in the sand until the uproar dies down.
Initially, the mass resignations were prompted by talk of an across-the-board investigation into corruption in education by prosecutors and the Board of Audit and Inspection. At this point, however, it seems we cannot expect the education community to discipline or regulate itself. We need outsiders to take on the job.
The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has named a panel of inspectors to oversee city and district offices of education. The panel is comprised of judges and prosecutors, as well as parents. It is not too late for the education authorities to repent for turning the sacred field of learning into a nest of corruption.
However painful it may be, they must make a serious effort to cleanse the waters that have polluted our education community.
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