Kwak’s got to go

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Kwak’s got to go

The prosecution has sought an arrest warrant for Kwak No-hyun, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, on charges of violating the Public Office Election Act.

Kwak has been questioned as to whether he paid 200 million won ($186,000) to a former rival during the Seoul school board election to drop out of the race.

Students and parents in Seoul have now twice witnessed the shameful scene of the city’s education superintendent being hauled in for questioning by the prosecution, and there is a good possibility of a trial. Kwak’s predecessor, Kong Jung-tack, was also swept out of office in a corruption scandal. The state of the education administration in Seoul is pitiful.

After two days of questioning, the prosecution said it confirmed that Kwak gave Park Myong-gee, a rival in last year’s superintendent election, a total of 200 million won in six installments since February, presumably in return for withdrawing his bid, allowing the liberals to rally behind a single candidate, Kwak. Park also was given a post on the Seoul Education Development Advisory Committee after Kwak took office.

Kwak claims that the money was a good-will gift to help out a friend in financial need. But campaign aides of both Kwak and Park admitted to the exchange of money, which took place in a complicated process that amounts to laundering, making his excuse highly unbelievable. His guilt will have to be determined by a court, but Kwak has lost the right to occupy a post that requires strict ethical discipline.

The office is too important to be left to an unqualified person. The Seoul education superintendent oversees 55,000 teachers and the education of 1.3 million students in the capital. If he goes into custody, his job will be assumed by his deputy until a court makes a final ruling.

Even if he is not detained, Kwak will have to spend a lot of time in court and will not be fully committed to his official duties. And if all that is not worrisome enough, the Seoul education office has now decided to push forward its student rights initiative.

It is best that Kwak step down. If he cannot be an exemplary role model, he should at least not mess up the city’s education system. If he has any conscience left, he should make the right decision for Seoul’s students and parents.

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