Lecturer’s suicide rocks universityPolice 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 [firstname.lastname@example.org]