Ex-education official tangled in major bribe case

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Ex-education official tangled in major bribe case

The Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday that it is investigating whether Kong Jung-tack, the former Superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, was involved in a large-scale corruption investigation begun late last year after a bar fight between two Seoul school commissioners.

At the same time, education officials announced a plan to reshuffle long-term office holders into new positions to reduce the risk of corruption.

On Saturday, a man surnamed Kim, a principal at high school “A” in southern Seoul, was arrested on charges of taking 20 million won ($17,234) in bribes from another Seoul principal, a man surnamed Jang. Jang was arrested last Thursday for offering bribes. Kim is the education policy bureau head at the Seoul education office and an immediate superior to Jang, a school commissioner.

The arrests arise from a bar fight last December, in which two Seoul school commissioners, Im and Goh, were arrested after Goh hit Im the head with her high-heeled shoe. At the police station, Goh blurted that Im took 20 million won from her on a promise that he would help Goh pass the exam to become a school commissioner.

An investigation revealed Im had taken bribes from other teachers to whom he promised the same thing. Police said Im eventually collected 20 million won in bribes, which he turned over to Jang. Prosecutors said Jang had asked Im to bribe the teachers; Jang in turn got that order from Kim.

Moving one step up the ladder, police said it is possible that the money was ultimately given to Kong. Prosecutors said it was “especially suspicious” that Kim ordered the bribes around September of last year, right before Kong was forced to resign from his post because of election fee irregularities. Kong was also made to return the 2.85 billion won election campaigning fee that the election committee redeemed after his victory.

Kong was indicted early last year for failing to disclose a bank account containing 430 million won which was kept under the name of his campaign manager, Choi. He was also charged with borrowing around 190 million won interest-free from Choi.

Kong could not be reached for comment.

As police investigation into the education sector continues to rage, the Seoul education office said it will enforce a major change regarding high-level education officers during its regular reshuffle next month.

The office said that it will transfer nearly 500 executive-level employees, including school commissioners and vice commissioners, who have been in their respective posts for more than one year, to other posts. “This is our move for reform, in an attempt to cut the alleged corruption cycle that has surfaced recently,” an official said.

By Jeong Seon-eon, Cho Jae-eun [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]

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