Education chief probed in bribe case

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Education chief probed in bribe case

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Kim Jong-seung, chief of the South Chungcheong Office of Education, was grilled by police yesterday over his involvement in the money-for-test-questions scandal that has already left three education commissioners behind bars.

The 63-year-old provincial superintendant is suspected of orchestrating the graft scheme in which the arrested three received kickbacks from 18 wannabe commissioners in exchange for giving them questions for the commissioner qualification test.

The commissioner qualification test is a civil service test for teachers who want to become bureaucrats overseeing schools.

The South Chungcheong Provincial Police Agency reported each of the 18 accomplices paid out between 10 million won ($9,274) to 30 million won in kickbacks.

The former English teacher denied his participation in the scheme during questioning yesterday, the police said.

“[From the investigation] we have evidence that backs up Kim’s involvement in the bribery case,” said detective Cho Dae-hyun, who is in charge of the investigation.

“Some of what Kim has told us so far during questioning is contrary to the evidence we have. We will decide what action to take once we go through his testimony.”

The authorities asked Kim why he used a phone registered under a borrowed name that was given to him by one of the arrested commissioners, also surnamed Kim.

During an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo Thursday, the troubled educator claimed he used the phone to “better communicate with commissioners” during the selection process and “was not aware of any wrongdoing” by his subordinates.

In contrast to Kim’s claim, the police suspect the provincial education chief was involved in the scheme as one of the arrested school officials told them they committed illegal acts for “education development in South Chungcheong.”

The authorities are pushing the investigation to find out whether the chief ordered the exam leak in a bid to collect funds.

The authorities are reportedly not ruling out the possibility that implicated officials were shoring up campaign funding for Kim’s superintendent re-election next year.

The police official added that the 18 teachers who bribed the trio are subject to legal punishment as well.

The graft scheme began in July last year when the arrested trio approached the 18 teachers, 16 from middle schools and two from elementary schools who the three had known previously, and promised them they would give them questions for the qualification exam in advance.

The suspects then contacted five of the test organizers and asked them to hand over questions as a favor, according to the police.

“The five organizers were not promised kickbacks [from the arrested]. They handed out the questions as a favor to the commissioners, who they also previously knew, thinking the questions leaked were only for a couple of people.”

One of the five organizers suspected of leaking the questions, surnamed Park, killed himself last month amid the ongoing investigation.



By Kang Jin-kyu, Shin Jin-ho [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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