Sookmyung loses board members for funds misuse

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Sookmyung loses board members for funds misuse

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said yesterday that it has completed necessary steps to dismiss six board members of the Sookmyung Women’s University Foundation, including its chairman, Lee Yong-tae, from their respective posts for allegedly mishandling outside donations.

The final dismissal comes after the ministry notified the board members earlier this month about revoking their authority to govern the university in order to take responsibility for misappropriating 68.5 billion won ($60 million) worth of outside donations between 1995 and 2009.

The foundation had transferred donation funds to its own bank account as though the donations were regularly obtained funding. Article 26 of the country’s Private School Teachers and Staff Pension Act prohibits any private university foundation from using school money.

“The board of the foundation submitted documents to us through a legal representative, but there was no information to overturn our decision,” a ministry official said. “We have finalized the process of dismissing the members - two directors and four auditors - from their positions, and the only remaining procedure for us is to officially notify them in an official written document that they have been discharged.”

In response to the ministry’s decision yesterday, Lee, the foundation’s chief, said that members will jointly “file an injunction against the ministry’s move and take necessary legal actions.”

“Other universities that have also misused outside donations in the past have only been given a warning, while we have been called to give up our board membership,” Lee said, complaining that the punishment is relatively too heavy.

“We [the foundation] will first file an injunction against our dismissal and sue the ministry to prove it has made a wrong decision regarding the level of punishment.”

Lee, who had been the chairman of the foundation since 1998, also added that “[Misappropriating school donations] has been done not only by the board members but also the school management” so “It is wrong to assign blame only to us.” The chairman said the school’s current president, Han Young-sil, and the previous president, Lee Kyung-sook, should also be held responsible.

Last week, Lee and other board members dismissed Han from her post as school president after holding an impromptu board meeting. They said she “constantly criticized and attacked board members over the past three years” and “pressured board members to retire.”

Han then filed an injunction at the Seoul Western District Court asking for a suspension of her dismissal, and on Thursday, the district court accepted the injunction.

The court said “The board had not notified members that it will hold a meeting seven days in advance according to the law for private schools.”


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]

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