A lesson in corruptionProsecutors have expanded their investigation of Lee Jung-hak, chairman of Sohae College in Gunsan, North Jeolla, who is suspected of embezzlement for having used some 600 million won ($500,000) to bribe education authorities.
Former Education Ministry spokesman Kim Jae-kum has already been arrested for having received regular kickbacks from the university.
Kim is suspected of having received cash, free games of golf and other kickbacks amounting to over 50 million won from 2012. Kim served as a director in university-related bureaus between 2012 and 2014.
Prosecutors believe the university probably lobbied more bureaucrats and politicians from the region.
Prosecutors think Lee regularly bribed education authorities for his purchase of the university in January last year. What’s more shameful is the ministry’s irresponsible and lame actions following the revelations.
Comically, Kim received a government medal last month for excellence in his work and also has a presidential award. He was arrested less than a month after being bestowed with a national merit. The ministry said it was not aware of the prosecutors’ investigation.
But that still does not explain how a corrupt official could be awarded for his performance and raises questions about the ministry’s judgment and oversight capacity.
The ministry scrambled to hold a meeting on the affair only after prosecutors raided Kim’s office. It hastily appointed the spokesman as a secretary general of a public university about seven hours before prosecutors filed for an arrest warrant.
The ministry explained that it took actions according to guidelines on appointments of senior officials. According the guidelines, a senior government official under investigation by law enforcement officials must still hold a certain title.
The ministry added that it will dismiss Kim and take strong disciplinary action according to prosecutors’ findings. The announcement was made after reporting to Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea, who previously served as the floor leader of the ruling party.
Education is one of four areas the government has pledged to reform within its term. The ministry must apologize for these dirty connections in the education field. Prosecutors also must thoroughly investigate to uncover corrupt connections and practices in our education sector.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 3, Page 26