Mud on the ivory towers

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Mud on the ivory towers

The wrongdoings of Cho Kuk no longer come as a surprise. The former justice minister has been indicted on 12 criminal counts. Of them, eight were allegedly committed during his time as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs. The newest outrage involves another chapter in Cho’s family’s academic shenanigans. The younger Cho applied to a Yonsei University graduate school in November 2017. Despite guidelines that forbid modification or cancelation of applications after a certain deadline, Yonsei nevertheless accepted revision to Cho’s documents through email after the deadline. Yonsei claimed three or four applicants submitted revisions through email after the deadline. The school claimed it accepted them all.

Yonsei University has not been that flexible before. In a posting on the Blue House petition bulletin in February 2019, one Yonsei University applicant complained about a lack of such flexibility. Yonsei explained that its actions were in line with its guidelines for fairness in college admission.

In September, Yonsei was raided by prosecutors searching for admission files on Cho’s son. But none of the files were found despite the school guideline that all admission-related documents be stored for four years. It raises questions about Yonsei University guidelines — among other things.

Universities are supposed to train minds and develop talents. But Yonsei has been bending its principles in suspicious ways. Another elite school, Korea University, has acted suspiciously with regards to Cho’s daughter.

Korea University said it would disqualify the admission and undergraduate degree of Cho’s daughter only if major problems were found with a research paper she was credited as co-author of, which was used in her application to the university. When the Korea Society of Pathologists repealed the questionable paper, the school said it would take action on Cho after prosecution investigation results. Even though a scholarship Cho received from the Pusan University medical school was considered a bribe by prosecutors, the school has not made any action.

None of these irregularities are imaginable if Cho was not been a key figure in the Moon Jae-in administration. The schools have lost respect by kowtowing to political big shots.

Korean education has been the biggest cause of the rags-to-riches transformation of the country. Education was behind our achievements in democracy. Freedom and justice now seem alien at universities. Our schools should feel ashamed.

JoongAng Sunday, Jan. 4, Page 30
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