Former university head is raided in graft probe

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Former university head is raided in graft probe

Prosecutors engaged in an investigation into corruption largely carried out under the previous Lee Myung-bak administration have shifted their focus to the education arena.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office on Friday raided the residence of former Chung-Ang University President Park Beom-hoon as well as the offices of the Ministry of Education, Chung-Ang University and the school’s foundation.

The prosecution suspects Park pressured the ministry and large corporations to give special favors to Chung-Ang University and had a hand in irregularities related to a training institute in Yangpyeong County, Gyeonggi.

He is known to have been close to Lee, participated in Lee’s presidential campaign and headed his inauguration preparation committee.

He served for six years as Chung-Ang University president until 2011 as well as Lee’s senior secretary for education and culture from 2011 to 2013.

The raids were conducted primarily to determine whether he pressured the education ministry to provide special treatment to Chung-Ang University when he was working as the presidential senior secretary.

According to the prosecution, during Park’s first year as senior secretary, Chung-Ang University was trying to integrate its main campus in southern Seoul with its campus in Anseong, Gyeonggi, though the ministry at the time recommended that the university first expand its campus in Seoul.

The university dismissed that suggestion, however, and applied for integration in June 2011, with the approval awarded the following month.

The prosecution suspects Park had an influence in the application process, though the ministry claims there were no procedural issues.

Park currently faces a slew of accusations, specifically that he inflicted financial damage on the university by investing school funds in derivatives and pressured large corporations to provide scholarship money to the school’s foundation.

The prosecution is reportedly looking into other allegations against Park concerning his tenure as Chung-Ang University president, one of which relates to a traditional-music training institute constructed in 2009. The ownership at the institute was later given turned over to the foundation, where he served as chairman of the board. Investigators are determining his involvement in that transition.

Park is banned from leaving Korea while prosecutors question those related to the accusations. He is expected to be summoned once investigators finish analyzing confiscated data.

BY KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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