Time for Kwak to resignKawk No-hyun, the embattled superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, declared yesterday that he has already told the whole truth about his suspicious transfer of 200 million won ($188,200) to a rival candidate before the election, adding that “from now on, I will do my job as head of the office with prudence and immense responsibilities.”
The decision on whether to resign or not is basically up to him until the court makes its final ruling. For the moment, he may be buoyed by the liberal camp’s campaign to save him. Some members of the main opposition Democratic Party who demanded his resignation have since changed their position, saying that he is an “icon of unification and solidarity for the opposition forces.”
Kwak may avoid criminal punishment for his activities, particularly given his expertise in legal matters as a law professor. However, a fierce legal battle is inevitable after Park Myong-gee - Kawk’s rival in last year’s superintendent race and a professor at the Seoul National University of Education - was arrested on charges of violating election law.
But Kwak has already lost respect and trust as chief of the Seoul education authority, which is in charge of 1.3 million students. His claim - that he gave 200 million won to Park as a token of goodwill - runs counter to Park’s allegation that he only demanded money that was promised by Kwak.
The post of education superintendent requires a high level of morality. If Kwak’s argument were true, a transfer of money would be deemed alright as long as it were made with goodwill. But Kwak is the one who fired 19 high school principals and vice principals after they turned out to have handed millions of won to a former superintendent in return for favors. Yet Kawk now insists that he is innocent and has nothing to be ashamed of. No doubt such a hypocritical position will only backfire.
The liberal camp’s effort to defend him at all costs looks pathetic. It suggests they are attempting to turn the fight into a full-fledged confrontation between conservatives and liberals. Against this backdrop is the fear that Kwak’s fall from grace could tarnish the myth that pits “clean progressives” against “corrupt conservatives.”
The prosecution is expected to summon Kwak by the weekend.
They must investigate Kwak thoroughly if they really want to correct the double standard he has been upholding against his own morality and conscience.