Court backs precedent-setting fine on ‘polifessor’

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Court backs precedent-setting fine on ‘polifessor’

The Seoul Administrative Court ruled against plaintiff Yu Jong-il yesterday, okaying a precedent-setting fine of three months’ salary levied against the “polifessor” - a portmanteau of politics and professor used to negatively describe college professors who leave their tenures for political office with little consideration of their students or schools.

Yu, a professor at the Korea Development Institute’s Graduate School for International Policy, was fined by the school for running for political office while on a six-month research leave.

The institute had allowed Yu to leave from November 2009 to May 2010 to conduct research at Tsinghua University in Beijing and the University of California, San Diego.

The professor came back to Korea earlier than planned in February 2010 and ran for office in North Jeolla’s gubernatorial election .

“[Yu] did not make any report to the institute before or even after such action of leaving his research post earlier and engaging in an action unrelated to his research,” the KDI said.

The institute reduced his wages for three months, a disciplinary action Yu objected to.

He took the case to the Appeal Commission for Teachers and was able to lessen the discipline duration from three months to two months.

“Not being stationed at a research center abroad during research leave cannot be considered deserting the workplace,” Yu said.

“As I have produced some good research results compared to other professors, such disciplinary action is unfair.”

He then filed an administrative litigation.

The Seoul Administrative Court, however, ruled against the plaintiff and restored the original fine.

“Although Professor Yu is not obliged to be stationed at a research center abroad for all his research leave, he engaged in political activities that were not related to his research,” the court said.

“Therefore, although he completed the research and produced outcomes, his behavior deserves such discipline.”

Professors who engage in politics are criticized as many abandon their students and befriend politicians in order to win elections, but go back to campuses when the outcome is unfavorable.


By Yim Seung-hye [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

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