Noraebang blues

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Noraebang blues

Jang Ha-sung, former presidential policy chief and current ambassador to Beijing, has outraged young people as his name was included in the list of lecturers who used Korea University’s corporate card to entertain themselves at hostess bars. “Shouldn’t we be enraged as you have taught us?,” Korea University students said, satirizing his urging to the young to show fury against the wrongdoings of the past Park Geun-hye government. His signature income-led growth policy is also being satirized as “entertainment-led growth.”
 
Jang is so far silent on the controversy. He cannot be reached by reporters and has made no comments. He may be waiting out the storm like all other controversial figures in the governing have done. The ruling party also has not made any comment on the scandal. Jang was central to the Moon Jae-in government’s policy-making.  
 
Jang’s alleged wrongdoings cannot be ignored. He deliberately chose a noraebang, or booth-type singing room, registered as a general restaurant that accepts corporate cards. He made the payment on two separate corporate cards to escape controversy during bookkeeping. Moreover, he used the corporate card purposed for research for pleasure.  
 
His action can draw more disappointment because he was a champion of corporate reforms fighting for transparent accounting practices by chaebol enterprises. Yet he resorted to fraudulent use of the corporate card for pleasure. He went to the bar six times just before he joined the Blue House in 2017.
 
The Education Ministry’s action has been suspicious. Although 12 were slapped with strong demotion or dismissal action, the ministry did to refer the case to the prosecution. Yet it reported on other faculty members accused of less grave misdeeds.  
 
Korea University also responded mysteriously. It did not impose any liability on Jang on the grounds that he had already retired from the university. Its professors embezzled 669.3 billion won ($588 million) over three years, and one of them was Jang, who was among the shortlisted candidates for university presidency. Still the university has not made any formal apology. Does it think so lightly of the misuse of donations and tuitions?  
 
When the government first launched an audit of private universities, school foundations lashed out at the “meddlesome” move. But the audit findings were demoralizing. Faculty members of Yonsei University were mobilized to enroll the daughter of a vice president in a business graduate school. If universities were transparent, they would not have feared any audit. Universities must self-reform through the auditing momentum. 

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