‘I gave money,’ says Seoul school superintendent

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‘I gave money,’ says Seoul school superintendent


Kwak No-hyun

Kwak No-hyun, the superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, said yesterday he gave 200 million won ($184,842) to Park Myong-gee, who was a leading candidate in last year’s superintendent election before he suddenly withdrew his candidacy. However, Kwak said the money wasn’t related to the election.

Just two weeks before the June 2, 2010 election, Park, who is a professor at Seoul National University of Education, agreed to withdraw his candidacy so the liberal parties could unite behind a single candidate, which was Kwak. Kwak beat six conservative and moderate candidates to win the election.

Kwak called a press conference after the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office sought an arrest warrant yesterday morning for Park on suspicion that he received 130 million won from Kwak to bow out of the race.

“After I was elected Seoul superintendent, I gave 200 million won to Park because he was suffering from heavy debts after running for superintendent twice,” Kwak said. “At the time, I also heard that he was thinking of committing suicide.”

Since winning the election, the 57-year-old superintendent, who pledged a controversial free school meal plan during the campaign, has been at odds with former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, who opposed the free meals. The mayor held a referendum last Wednesday to reduce the scope of the free meal policy, but the referendum failed to get enough votes, and Oh resigned Friday.

Kwak said yesterday he was being targeted by prosecutors in the aftermath of the referendum. “The money wasn’t related to the superintendent election,” Kwak added. “This investigation is targeting me and is a political act.”

According to the prosecution, Park allegedly received the money in three installments from February to April from Kwak’s aide. After Kwak’s press conference, the prosecution told reporters, “We can’t confirm whether the amount is 200 million won or not. Regardless of the press conference, we will continue our investigation.”

In June, Park was named an adviser to a committee on education development in Seoul, which has powerful authority in deciding overall education policies. Prosecutors suspected that his appointment, decided by the superintendent, could have been payback for withdrawing his candidacy.

If prosecutors prove that Kwak was involved in bribery, he would be immediately dismissed as the head of the Seoul Education Office and charged with violation of the Public Official Election Act, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail. Opposition lawmakers have questioned the timing of the investigation, which started just a day after the free lunch referendum.

But prosecutors said that the Seoul Metropolitan Election Commission reported the allegation to the prosecution on Aug. 8, and prosecutors waited until the referendum was finished deliberately.

The election watchdog told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday that it received a tip-off on Aug. 7 with specifics about the money given by Kwak to Park. After writing a report about the tip-off, the commission submitted it to the Prosecutors’ Office the next day.

“The statute of limitations in the case was about to expire,” an official of the commission told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday, “so we immediately reported the allegation to the prosecution.”

After Kwak’s statement, the opposition Democratic Party was concerned that a graft scandal would have a negative impact on the liberal parties’ political image ahead of a by-election on Oct. 26 to elect a new mayor. The Seoul Central District Court will rule today whether or not it will issue an arrest warrant against Park.

By Kim Hee-jin, Jung Hyo-sik [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

곽노현 “박명기에게 선의로 2억 줬다” VS 검찰 “두사람 오랫동안 돈문제 다퉜다”

교육감 후보 단일화 대가 포착
검찰 “2억 중 일부 공금 가능성”
한나라 “곽노현 사퇴하라”

지난해 서울시 교육감 선거 때 유력한 진보진영 후보였던 박명기(53) 서울교대 교수에게 사퇴대가로 돈을 건넨 의혹을 받고 있는 곽노현(57) 서울시 교육감은 “박 교수에게 선의(善意)로 2억원을 지원했다”고 주장했다. 곽 교육감은 그러나 2억원의 출처에 대해서는 밝히지 않았다. 이에 대해 검찰 측은 “두 사람이 오래전부터 돈 문제 때문에 다툰 것으로 조사됐다”며 2억원은 후보 단일화의 대가라고 밝혔다.

 곽 교육감은 28일 오후 서울 신문로 서울시교육청에서 기자회견을 열어 “박 교수가 교육감 선거에 두 번이나 출마하는 과정에서 경제적으로 궁박한 상태이며 자살까지도 생각한다는 이야기를 듣고 모른 척할 수 없었다”며 “드러나게 지원하면 오해가 있을 수 있어 선거와 무관한 친구를 통해 전달했다”고 말했다.

 곽 교육감은 검찰 수사에 대해 “분별 없이 보면 (돈을 준 것이) 후보직 매수행위라고 볼지도 모르지만, 법은 분별 있게 (상황을) 본다”며 “합법성만 강조하고 인정을 무시하면 몰인정한 사회가 된다”고 덧붙였다.

사건을 수사 중인 서울중앙지검 공안1부는 이달 초 곽 교육감을 출국금지한 데 이어 이번 주 중 그를 소환하기로 했다. 검찰은 우선 곽 교육감의 부탁을 받고 박 교수에게 돈을 전달한 것으로 파악된 강경선(58) 한국방송통신대 법대 교수를 29일 중 소환키로 했다.

검찰은 특히 곽 교육감이 박 교수에게 전달한 돈 중 일부가 교육감 판공비 등 공금을 빼돌려 조성됐을 가능성이 있을 것으로 보고 돈의 출처를 확인하기 위해 계좌추적 작업을 벌이고 있다. 검찰의 한 관계자는 “지난해 말부터 박명기 교수가 곽 교육감에게 단일화에 대한 대가를 요구하면서 두 사람이 갈등을 빚은 것 같다”며 “이 같은 내용이 사정당국에 포착돼 서울시선관위가 조사를 벌인 뒤 이달 초 검찰에 수사의뢰를 했다”고 밝혔다.

 이에 앞서 검찰은 후보 사퇴 대가로 올 2~4월 세 차례에 걸쳐 곽 교육감에게서 1억3000만원을 받은 혐의(공직선거법 위반)로 박 교수에 대한 구속영장을 이날 청구했다. 7000만원가량은 공소시효(6개월) 때문에 범죄 혐의에선 제외된 것으로 알려졌다. 영장 실질심사는 29일 오후 열린다.

 한나라당 김기현 대변인은 브리핑에서 “곽 교육감은 즉각 사퇴하고 검찰은 구속 수사해 엄하게 처벌해야 한다”고 촉구했다.
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