Kwak’s betrayal of commitments

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Kwak’s betrayal of commitments

Kwak No-hyun, liberal superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, recently made a series of appointments that went against his professed principles. Previously, he had presented himself as an advocate for fair appointments, with the first slogan of his campaign against corruption in the education sector reading “Stop peer group appointments.” However, he has begun to appear two-faced and capable of reversing his principles and statements as the occasion sees fit.

At a recent press conference, Kwak said he will not condone speedy - and therefore controversial - promotions in his secretariat. But he said he will authorize the hiring of public school teachers, the punitive transfers of administrative directors and the expansion of the secretariat despite questions of the fairness of such moves.

Kwak is known to have hired three public school teachers who worked in his election camp after conducting quick interviews, meaning that in each case he forewent the full and proper procedures of hiring. Even former Seoul Education Chief Kong Jung-tack, whom Kwak attacked as the epitome of corruption in the education sector, at least subjected his cronies to tests and interviews before hiring them. Kwak remains intransigent, though, even after the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology ordered him to scale down his unusual hiring of teachers in public schools. Kwak may be confusing educational sovereignty with abuses of authority by insisting that the appointments in his school district fall under his jurisdiction. Meanwhile, doubling the number of staff at his secretariat also seems to contradict his campaign of turning the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education into a small but effective unit. His pledge to give schools more room to breathe was refreshing, but this move seems aimed more at stifling them, especially as he intends to fill some of the new posts with aides from his election camp.

During the aforementioned press conference, Kwak asked the director of the administration office - who is in charge of administrative appointments at Seoul’s elementary, middle and high schools - to explain to reporters that Kwak volunteered to be transferred to Gapyeong, Gyeonggi, when he became embroiled in a legal fiasco.

Kwak is now awaiting the verdict of his appeal after a court fined him 30 million won ($27,000) on bribery charges for making favorable appointments. As his job is now on the line, he would be well-advised to avoid such controversial appointments from now on, or face a possible probe.

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