MMCA chief dismissed in recruitment controversy

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MMCA chief dismissed in recruitment controversy

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) launched a special exhibition intended to mark its Seoul branch’s first anniversary yesterday, but the mood was far from celebratory.

A press conference for the show, titled “Garden,” had been scheduled for Monday. It was canceled, however, after the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism dismissed the museum’s director, Chung Hyung-min, 62, from her position last week.

Chung was fired for allegedly interfering in the recruitment process of the museum’s new curators.

The “Garden” exhibition was presided over by one of two new curators who were allegedly hired a year ago because they knew the director. The curator was one of Chung’s students when she served as a professor of art at Seoul National University.

Chung served as an SNU professor and head of the university’s museum prior to becoming director of the MMCA in January 2012.

According to the Culture Ministry, the Board of Audit and Inspection found evidence earlier this month that Chung had intervened in the recruitment process in October 2013. The board reported their suspicions to the ministry and asked prosecutors to investigate Chung for abuse of authority and interfering with a business.

With the knowledge that a former student and one of her previous junior staff members had applied for the open positions at the MMCA, Chung had their score cards manipulated and also intervened in their interview processes even though she was not one of the judges, according to the board.

This is not the first time Chung has been accused of favoritism. The Korean Fine Arts Association, a group of artists, demanded her resignation late last year. The group alleged that “Zeitgeist,” one of MMCA Seoul’s inaugural exhibitions about modern Korean art history, favored artists who graduated from SNU.

More than 70 percent of the show’s participants were SNU alumni.

Yoon Nam-soon, the MMCA’s secretary general of planning and management, will act as the museum’s director for the time being.

“Garden” celebrates the MMCA’s birthday, which fall on Nov. 13. It features 40 works by local and foreign artists and runs through April 26, 2015.

BY MOON SO-YOUNG [symoon@joongang.co.kr]
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