Prosecutors seek arrest warrant for school chief

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Prosecutors seek arrest warrant for school chief

After a second day of questioning, prosecutors asked for an arrest warrant yesterday for Kwak No-hyun, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, on charges of giving 200 million won ($186,776) to a former campaign rival in return for his withdrawal.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said Kwak would be charged with violating the Public Official Election Act, which forbids candidates running for public office from promising campaign opponents benefits or positions in return for their exit.

Prosecutors said they were worried that Kwak could destroy evidence proving his guilt if he is not in custody.

A court will rule whether to grant the arrest warrant tomorrow.

The 57-year-old liberal superintendent has been accused of giving money and a high-ranking position at the education office to Park Myong-gee, a former opponent in last year’s superintendent election.

Although Kwak has insisted that he was only trying to help Park with his debts, Park told prosecutors that Kwak promised him money and a position in return for his withdrawal.

In 30 hours of questioning on Monday and Tuesday, prosecutors said that Kwak admitted to knowing about a May 2010 secret meeting between his aide and Park’s aide before last October. At the meeting, the two aides reportedly agreed to exchange money in return for Park’s exit, and until yesterday, Kwak had maintained that he did not know anything about the meeting until last October.

Still, the superintendent argued that he gave money to Park as a “good will” gesture not related to the election.

Park received the money in four installments, from February to April of this year, from Kwak’s best friend. Half of the money was raised by Kwak’s wife, and Kwak said he borrowed the rest of the money from his friend.

If Kwak is arrested, he could still keep his position while the vice superintendent temporarily fills in. He would, however, lose his post if convicted at a final ruling and be fined a maximum of 30 million won.

A by-election to replace Kwak would be held on Oct. 26 - the same day as the by-election for Seoul mayor - should Kwak lose his job before October.

Kwak would also be forced to return 3.52 billion won in campaign expenses that were reimbursed by the National Election Commission.

By Kim Hee-jin []
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