Supreme Court’s ruling on Kwak set for Sept. 27

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Supreme Court’s ruling on Kwak set for Sept. 27

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Kwak No-hyun, superintendent of the Seoul Office of Education, yesterday at a dialogue with student representatives held in the education office in Seoul. [NEWSIS]

The Supreme Court said yesterday it will deliver a final ruling on the election bribery case involving Seoul Education Superintendent Kwak No-hyun on Sept. 27.

Kwak, who ran for education superintendent and won by a narrow margin in June 2010, was convicted in April by an appeals court of bribing a rival candidate to withdraw from the race. He was sentenced to a year in jail, which was suspended until the Supreme Court’s ruling in the case.

The ruling will be made on Sept. 27, according to the court.

“The justice department has finished looking over necessary documents related to the case and has set the date of the final ruling,” said a court official.

Kwak was charged in September last year, for offering Professor Park Myong-gee of Seoul National University of Education 200 million won ($178,800) in return for dropping out of the Seoul superintendent election in June 2010. The move violated the Local Education Autonomy Act and the Public Official Election Act.

Park was a rival liberal candidate and after he abandoned the race, Kwak defeated conservative candidate Lee Won-hee by only 1.12 percent of the votes.

At his first trial in January, the Seoul Central District Court found Kwak to be guilty of bribery but only fined him 30 million won. The punishment was much lighter than the four-year prison sentence sought by the prosecutors. In April, the Seoul High Court rejected the lower court sentence and gave Kwak a one-year jail sentence.

Kwak has claimed that the money given to Park by Kwak’s aide was not a bribe for Park’s withdrawal but a gesture of “good will.” Park was known to be having money troubles. The money was delivered by Kang Kyung-seon, a law professor at Korea National Open University, who is Kwak’s best friend.

The high court decided not to arrest Kwak until the Supreme Court’s ruling, which allowed him to continue his job running Seoul’s schools. A final ruling was expected in July but the date was delayed because a Supreme Court Justice seat was vacant for 22 days.

If the Supreme Court finds him guilty, Kwak will lose his job and the vice superintendent will be acting superintendent until a re-election. According to the National Election Commission, a re-election would be held along with the country’s presidential elections on Dec. 19 if Kwak loses his job.

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

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