Educator’s commentary sparks police investigation

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Educator’s commentary sparks police investigation

Police and prosecutors are investigating a high school teacher for allegedly telling his students that the Coast Guard, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the Park Geun-hye government lied to the public and concealed facts about the Sewol ferry disaster while covering up other political motivations.

The biology instructor, who teaches 11th and 12th graders at a high school in Bundang, Gyeonggi, stirred controversy after he accused the NIS, the country’s top spy agency, of lying about the status of the recovery efforts, reportedly telling his students, “The NIS already found the bodies but is trying to buy more time by revealing the remains slowly.”

The accusations follow criticism of the government’s incompetent handling of the rescue efforts after the Sewol ferry disaster on April 16, which has left 276 people dead and 28 missing. The majority of the passengers onboard the ship were 11th-grade students from Danwon High School in Ansan who were on a field trip to Jeju Island.

The JoongAng Ilbo obtained two recorded audio clips, three-minutes and five-minutes long, of the high school teacher’s remarks in class.

“Let’s continue on with class,” his students can be heard protesting.

To which he responds: “While the entire media is focused on that issue [the Sewol disaster], the Saenuri Party in Yeouido passed the Korea-U.S. cost-sharing bill for troops, so that we owe the U.S. 960 billion won.”

The instructor was referring to the recent ratification of the new five-year Special Measures Agreement, in which South Korea agreed to increase its annual contributions by 920 billion won ($890 million) toward the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the country.

His comments in class were made public after a student recorded his lectures, in which he criticized the Park Geun-hye government’s handling of rescue efforts, and handed those clips over to a civilian organization.

The teacher reportedly told his class that “the Coast Guard is concealing the fact that it received notification early on [of the sinking of the ferry] and did not proceed with rescue operations.” He added that “the U.S. Navy was near the Sewol but did not assist [with rescue operations] under [the Korean] government’s orders.”

“The largest shareholder of [broadcaster] MBC is Park Geun-hye,” the instructor continued. “Our country has no press freedom.”

According to the school, the man, who was not identified, was hired as a temporary teacher last year and his contract is set to expire in February. He does not have a homeroom class.

The high school said that it will discuss terminating his contract. He will also be evaluated by the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education.

The Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency is also investigating the teacher’s remarks to determine if they were, in fact, criminal insults or slanderous.

The NIS on Monday filed a suit with the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office, suing the man for defamation.

The high school said the teacher has been suspended from teaching classes while the police investigation proceeds.

BY LEE YU-JEONG, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]



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