Crackdown on ‘bribe day’As Teacher’s Day approaches on May 15, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology is cracking down on the deeply rooted practice known as chonji - parents bribing teachers that day in exchange for their children getting better grades.
“We are now inspecting areas near so-called likely bribe-taking schools, where many high-income families live and previous bribery cases were uncovered,” an Education Ministry official said yesterday.
A 2009 Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission survey found that among 1,660 parents surveyed, 39.8 percent said they give chonji to teachers on Teacher’s Day.
Asked what kinds of chonji they give to teachers, 63.1 percent of respondents said they choose gifts, 26.4 percent said they give a gift voucher and 7.8 percent said they give cash gifts.
The Education Ministry in February started a special bribery investigation team with about 100 officials nationwide.
Team members wait outside schools to watch for visitors carrying shopping bags, which are often used to hide chonji, and order them to open the bags on the spot.
Kim Kwang-hyeon, leader of the team, said, “While we came under fire from society last year due to rampant corruption in schools, we came up with this idea to eradicate corruption in schools.”
Under current regulations, teachers are barred from receiving any kind of gift or cash from parents, even it is dubbed a “very little gift,” Kim said.
“There are various punishments according to how much money and what kind of gifts teachers receive,” Kim said.
Parents, in fact, say they feel troubled deciding whether to will give presents to teachers or not.
“Recently, all mothers around me were talking about presents for Teacher’s Day,” a 38-year-old mother, surnamed Yun, said.
“I would feel uncomfortable if all mothers gifted teachers except me on the day,” Yun added.
But parents say if they don’t give presents to teachers on that day, their children could lag behind in Korea’s highly competitive school life without gaining any help from teachers.
The anti-corruption agency recently sent a letter to education offices nationwide that reads: “Keep the regulation on the acts of civil servants.”
Teachers in all elementary, middle and public high schools in Korea are civil servants.
By Park Su-ryon, Kim Min-sang [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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