School accused of fudging admissions

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School accused of fudging admissions

A special committee under the Seoul Metropolitan Council announced Thursday that it is looking into whether Hana Academy Seoul, the first autonomous private high school in Seoul, may have fabricated its admission test results.

According to the panel, tasked with investigating the high school, the institute is believed to have admitted male students who could not make the cut-off score.

One committee member cited testimony from a teacher at the school who took part in the admissions process in 2010 and 2014 and appeared at the hearing Wednesday, in which the educator stated that additional points were given to male applicants to adjust the balance between the number of male and female students.

“He also said the school wanted to match the number due to the number of open spots in the school dormitory,” the panelist said.

The school admitted that it adjusted the male-female ratio, further adding that it believed the modification did not pose a problem.

“We didn’t view it [as a serious issue] because it had to do with the facility’s capacities,” Vice Principal Jeong Cheol-hwa said at the hearing.

Chairman Kim Seung-yu, a member of the board of the Hana School Foundation, added that the school believed the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education understood the reason for the adjustment since it was not “specifically pointed out in its inspection.”

The local education office, however, denied it was aware of the issue.

“In the inspection report in July 2013, there is no line indicating that we acknowledged the situation involving the dormitory,” said Kim Hyeong-nam, an inspector at the education office.

“Since irregularities in the admission process is a reason for stripping the school of autonomous private high school status, we’re planning to open another inspection once the city council wraps up its current investigation.”

An official with the Ministry of Education also noted that the high school could adjust the male-female ratio of its students, but only after consulting the ministry.

“It can be considered an irregularity if the school manipulates the results without stipulating that in its admissions plan,” the source said.

Hana Academy Seoul was built by the Hana School Foundation, an educational foundation under Hana Financial Group, and opened in March 2010. It is an autonomous private high school with a high competition rate.

The school was suspected to have received special favors after it was designated as a private autonomous high school.

In April, the city council organized the investigative committee, which is currently looking into the school’s operations and other concerns, including its scholarship funds.

The committee’s tenure expires on Oct. 22. For the hearing on Thursday, the committee summoned Oh Se-hoon, who served as Seoul mayor at the time of the school’s establishment, though he neglected to appear.

“According to regulations, we may fine him anywhere from 3 million won [$25,200] to 5 million won [for failing to testify],” said committee Chairman Lee Jeong-hun.

“We are considering ordering him to pay a 5 million won fine as soon as we finish our session.”

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

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