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Professors Rush into Politics

Posted March. 14, 2007 07:08,   


A, who is in his 40s and a professor at a university in Busan, is frequently seen around the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul. Professor A often meets politicians and reporters there and asks, “On which presidential hopeful should I make a bet—between Lee Myung-bak, former mayor of Seoul, and Park Geun-hye, the chairwoman of the Grand National Party(GNP).” “I have already received offers from both camps. A professor exerts a greater influence than an ordinary citizen, and I know many professors who I can mobilize,” A added.

Last month, B, a professor at a university in the metropolitan area, came to the office of Lee Myung-bak’s camp with the “Korean Peninsular Grand Canal Project,” claimed to be developed by him. Although documents were neatly created with Microsoft PowerPoint, its contents were worse than those of newspaper articles or media reports, according to an official of Lee’s camp.

Park Geun-hye’s camp is having a headache due to C, a professor at a university in Seoul who joined the advisory committee of professors. C, who put his name on the list of the advisory committee with the help of former ministers, recently delivered a final report to the camp by slightly changing a draft report of another professor, pretending as if it was his own work.

Numerous “polifessors” are officially or unofficially approaching the camps of presidential hopefuls ahead of the upcoming presidential elections. “Everyday, a couple of professors come to our camp,” an official of Lee’s camp said. “There have been already about 50 to 60 professors who have come to meet Park this year,” an official of Park’s camp said.

There are also numerous cases in which professors organize associations along with other professors to support a particular presidential hopeful. One professor even accompanied Lee for his visit to European countries, although it was in the middle of the semester in October 2006.

There are also professors who are placing their bets on the potential presidential candidates of the ruling Uri Party, although a majority of professors are betting on the GNP.

For instance, professors at provincial universities came to Chung Dong-young, former chairman of the Uri Party, to suggest ideas such as holding a soccer match between North Korean soldiers and South Korean soldiers and changing the name of the Daegu International Airport to Park Chung-hee Airport to win the hearts of people in the Yeongnam region.

There are polifessors approaching the camps of presidential candidates in every presidential election.

One professor who played a pivotal role in the presidential campaigns of former GNP presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang in the 1997 and 2002 presidential elections is now working for Park’s camp. One professor at a provincial university, who was in the advisory committee of professors for Lee Hoi-chang’s camp in 2002, voluntarily served as an advisor to former Prime Minister Goh Kun until the end of 2006. Another professor at a university in Seoul who used to regularly offer reports on the diplomatic environment surrounding the Korean Peninsula to Goh is now participating in Lee’s camp’s advisory committee of professors.

A man, who became professor after leaving government service in 1999, ran for the 2002 local elections and 2004 general elections while keeping his professorship. He is at the moment considering running for the April 25 by-elections. Meanwhile, Rep. Kim Hyo-seok of the Democratic Party has been on a leave from Chung-Ang University for eight years.

“The participation of professors in politics seems to be more noticeable ahead of the upcoming presidential elections. Since the Roh Moo-hyun administration took office, professors who were on the outskirts of the professor circles stood at the center of the administration. This seems to have strongly stimulated them,” a professor at Sogang University said.