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[Editorial] Due qualifications for education minister

Posted August. 29, 2000 20:27,   


The public controversy over Minister of Education Song Ja`s moral stance never ceases to stop. The plagiarism issue has freshly been raised against Minister Song over his work, The Economy of Management. This is subsequent to the controversy over the windfall profits Minister Song made from the sale of the unclaimed stocks he purchased from the Samsung Electronics when he was an outside director there. Days earlier, the issue of Song`s dual nationality, holding both Korean and U.S. citizenship, was raised to amplify the controversy. Song`s dual nationality was an issue which was even brought before the court when he was appointed as the president of Yonsei University.

Education minister must be a most exemplary figure in terms of public morality. For that reason, it is very disheartening and distressing to see that Minister Song is at the center of civic organizations` devastating criticism for reasons none other than earning dishonest money and his flaws in qualifications. There has been considerable public criticism over the frequent changes in the appointment of education minister. Song is the fourth Minister of Education during the two and a half years of the present administration, which professes to be the ¡°Government of the People.`` The Minister of Education is soon to be elevated to a rank of deputy premier to carry out the nation`s grand agenda to effectively develop and manage manpower and human resources. No sooner than he is appointed, Minister Song is now also under pressure to resign, like his short-lived predecessors. We are at quite a loss over this lamentable turn of the situation over the education portfolio.

Foremost of all, the government`s incompetence and laxity in selecting the right person for the job has got to be blamed for such a deplorable situation. Torrential criticisms were raised about Song`s flawed, public morality immediately after his appointment as education minister. Therefore, we doubt very much that the government made adequate efforts to listen to varied voices and the opinions of the educational community before it decided on Song.

As for plagiarism, Minister Song`s poor excuse was that his book was merely intended as a reference for his lecture, but not as his own work as had been the practice during the times. Song clarified that his dual nationality is a case of an accidental error because he did not know well about the procedures and legal stipulations for a change of one`s nationality.

From a technical standpoint, Song may not have any legal flaws. But, Song`s book was regarded by many as almost a translated version of other`s work. But he published it as his own work. As for his dual nationality, Song apparently resorted to an irregular, expedient method in the process of changing nationality. Legal technicalities notwithstanding, Song should be adjudged, under such circumstances, as a person far too short of meeting the moral prerequisites and suitable qualifications the people require of the nation`s education minister.

Let us face the realities, as we suspect, that Song cannot exercise any moral leadership or authority for educational reforms, as he continues to remain in his cabinet portfolio. The Ministry of Education has an enormous amount of accumulated work to do, such as university reforms and other educational reform agenda, that the ¡°Government of the People`` has set itself before the nation but has yet to accomplish. There is not enough time to complete such work if the education ministry remains crippled and haunted by the controversy over its minister`s due qualifications. Minister Song`s wise and courageous decision is called for here.