Ex-chief of Seoul education summoned

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Ex-chief of Seoul education summoned

Former Seoul Education Superintendent Kong Jung-tack yesterday appeared before the prosecution for allegedly accepting bribes while in office in return for using his power to help senior schoolteachers win promotions to senior posts in Seoul schools.

Kong flatly denied the allegations to journalists and said he’s not involved in the money-for-position scandal before submitting himself for questioning at the Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office.

Prosecutors said they asked Kong whether he ordered his close aides to manipulate rating documents for certain senior teachers so that they could be promoted to headmaster, vice headmaster or school commissioner posts. Kong was also asked whether he was the ultimate beneficiary of a bribery chain that started with senior schoolteachers who handed money to Seoul school commissioners.

“The focus of the investigation is to find out whether Kong systematically committed personnel promotion irregularities through his aides at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education,” a prosecutor said.

Prosecutors will soon decide whether to seek warrants to detain Kong based on his testimony and other evidence.

Kong fell under suspicion of being at the center of the large bribe and promotion scandal in Seoul city’s education sector after prosecutors in January detained a school commissioner surnamed Im for taking millions of won in bribes from teachers who asked Im to help them pass the exam to become school commissioners.

Prosecutors later detained two other school commissioners surnamed Jang and Kim for allegedly taking a payment of 20 million won ($17,600) from Im. Prosecutors said Jang, a school commissioner, asked Im to bribe the teachers, and Jang in turn got that order from Kim. Kim is the education policy bureau head at the Seoul education office and Jang’s immediate superior.

According to prosecutors, Kim said the money trail led back to Kong, then Seoul’s education chief.

Im, who had his trial last Thursday, said he took bribes because he wanted to raise legal expenses for Kong, who was facing trial for violating election fund law.

Kong lost his education chief post in October last year after he was convicted for violating a law governing campaign funds during his July 2008 election. Kong failed to disclose a bank account containing 430 million won that was kept under the name of his campaign manager. The money actually belonged to Kong’s wife.

By Jeong Seon-eon, Kim Mi-ju [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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