Gov’t tells embezzled schools to clean books

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Gov’t tells embezzled schools to clean books

Three institutions of higher education founded by Lee Hong-ha, who has been indicted on charges of embezzling over 100 billion won ($90.1 million), are facing forced closure by the government.

The Ministry of Education said Thursday that a special audit into the three schools founded by the 75-year-old showed that Lee pocketed at least 56.7 billion won from the schools.

Hanlyo University and Gwangyang Health College in Gwangyang, South Jeolla, and Shingyeong University in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi are the three schools whose funds were allegedly plundered by Lee.

“The 56.7 billion won of school funds is part of the 100.4 billion won pocketed by the founder, [for which he was indicted last December],” said Kim Yong-gwan, head of the special audit team at the Education Ministry.

The 56.7 billion won was spent to buy land to expand Lee’s education projects and for his personal use.

The other money allegedly embezzled came from a fourth school and a construction company run by Lee.

The ministry said the audit discovered that the three schools used a variety of deceptions.

To meet the requirements to transform Hanlyo University from a two-year college to a four-year-university, a number of fraudulent tactics were used. One technique was to name nurses working at a hospital run by Seonam University, a sister university of Hanlyo, as full-time lecturers to pad the roster of teachers, the ministry said.

Hanlyo University is also accused of faking its enrollment numbers and giving credits to students not qualified to pass classes. Gwangyang Health College was found to have approved credits to students who didn’t complete their job trainings. The ministry notified all three schools of the students whose degrees should be nullified.

The ministry said the three schools have been told which practices must be rectified and to report their progress in two months. If their efforts are deemed insufficient, they could be closed by the government.

The ministry also demanded the three schools retrieve the 56.7 billion won pocketed by Lee.

An investigation into officials complicit with Lee’s schemes has also begun. Prosecutors at the Suncheon branch office of the Gwangju District Prosecutors’ Office confirmed one official on an audit team of the education ministry had inappropriate contact with Lee.


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

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