Education chief allegedly poisoned

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Education chief allegedly poisoned

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Kim Jong-seung, South Chungcheong’s troubled education office chief, lies on a sick bed in the Daejeon St. Mary’s Hospital. [Joint Press Corps]

An alleged suicide attempt by Kim Jong-seung, South Chungcheong’s troubled education office chief, baffled the police yesterday and is expected to delay the investigation into his alleged role in the money-for-test questions scandal.

The Daejeon Seobu Fire Department said that Kim’s wife reported to the authorities at around 12:30 p.m. yesterday that her husband had tried to poison himself.

Dispatched workers arrived at Kim’s house five minutes later and found Kim lying on the sofa, conscious.

Kim’s alleged suicide attempt came less than a day after he returned home following a 15-hour grilling by the authorities for the second time.

The 63-year-old provincial superintendent is suspected of orchestrating the graft scheme in which three commissioners received kickbacks worth over 200 million won ($185,400) 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.

During two intense questionings, Kim was pressed to explain why he used a mobile phone, given by one of the arrested commissioners, that was registered under a false name.

Though the wife reported it was a suicide attempt, a firefighter who arrived at the site told the Korea JoongAng Daily he found no evidence of poison in the house.

“When we entered the house, Kim was conscious on the sofa. No bottles of herbicide were seen in the house,” said Chung Eui-joon, a 119 worker dispatched to Kim’s house.

Kim was transported to the Daejeon St. Mary’s Hospital and had his stomach pumped. Kim’s alleged suicide attempt is not life-threatening.

Kim was about to be put behind bars as the South Chungcheong Police Agency was confident they could make their case against the provincial education office head for wrongdoing using testimony from the arrested commissioners.

“We are taken aback by the alleged suicide attempt amid the ongoing investigation,” said detective Cho Dae-hyun, who is in charge of the investigation. The official said the police will “closely watch” the troubled chief’s “recovery process” and decide what further action to take.

“Despite Kim’s continued rebuttal of the charge, we still have strong evidence linking the superintendent to the bribery scandal,” added Cho.

The police reportedly received testimony from one of the arrested commissioners that the education chief ordered the leak of test questions in exchange for bribes and was aware of the amount of money received for kickbacks for the questions.

The authorities suspect the main reason behind the money-for-test questions scheme was to shore up campaign funds for Kim’s re-election next year. The investigators also suspect the arrested commissioners were involved in the scheme to win Kim’s favor.


By Kang Jin-kyu, Seo Hyung-sik [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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