Lecturer’s suicide rocks university

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Lecturer’s suicide rocks university

Police yesterday launched an investigation into the suicide of a part-time university lecturer, who killed himself Tuesday after he failed to get a full-time professor position at the university where he had worked for 10 years - and blamed corruption in the university hiring system for his death.

In a five-page letter he left to his wife and President Lee Myung-bak, the Chosun University lecturer, surnamed Seo, detailed allegations of graft in universities’ hiring processes.

“Korean society is rotten,” Seo wrote to Lee. “You called education a plan that spans 100 years. But I heard that a professor’s post costs 150 million won to 300 million won ($125,000 to $250,000). ... I was asked to pay 60 million won by a university in South Jeolla two years ago and 100 million won by a university in Gyeonggi two months ago if I wanted to become a full-time professor.

“My suicide is caused by stress. You can’t just leave what part-time lecturers are facing now. Pick professors based on their abilities. I request an investigation into this case.”

Seo’s letter asked Lee to root out corruption in the hiring systems, to punish those who instigate pay-offs and to improve the living conditions of part-time lecturers at Korean universities.

Seo also alleged that his supervisor, a professor at Chosun University in Gwangju, had been exploiting him. He claimed he had ghostwritten 54 theses for the professor, none of which included his name as a co-writer. Seo asked in his letter that the professor be punished.

The 45-year-old lecturer killed himself by setting fire to a briquette inside his apartment in Gwangju. His wife, surnamed Park, found him when she returned home at 10:50 p.m. on Tuesday. Park said her husband had been troubled since he failed to earn a full-time professor position at the university.

Seo had earned his bachelor’s degree in English literature at a private university in Seoul and his masters and doctorate degrees at a university in South Jeolla province. He had been a part-time lecturer since 2000.

Chosun University pays its part-time lecturers 34,000 won per hour and police said Seo earned less than 1.5 million won per month by teaching English at the university and its language institute.

“Our investigation is focused on finding out whether full-time professor positions were awarded for cash, and whether the [professor’s] theses were ghostwritten,” said Kim Won-seok, the investigator in charge of the case. “The accused will face punishment if the charges are confirmed.”

Meanwhile, Chosun University formed its own investigative body consisting of university officials recommended by full-time professors and part-time lecturers to probe the matter.


By Kim Mi-ju, Yu Ji-ho [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

교과부도 유서 내용 조사하기로


교수 채용을 대가로 금품을 요구하고 논문 대필을 폭로한 유서를 남기고 스스로 목숨을 끊은 40대 시간강사 사건에 대해 경찰이 수사에 착수했다. <본지 5월 28일자 20면>

광주서부경찰서 김원석 수사과장은 28일 “서모(45)씨가 유서에서 폭로한 교수 임용 과정의 금품 요구 및 수수, 연구논문 대리 작성 등의 의혹을 확인하기 위해 지능범죄수사팀에 사건을 배당해 수사하고 있다”고 밝혔다.

경찰은 서씨의 e-메일 확보에 나서는 한편 ‘돈을 요구했다’고 언급한 전남과 수도권의 사립대에 대해서도 사실관계를 확인하고 있다.

경찰은 서씨가 대필했다고 밝힌 논문에 대한 확인작업도 병행하고 있다. 이와 관련해 경찰은 기초조사가 끝나는 대로 서씨의 지도교수를 불러 조사할 예정이다.
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