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[Opinion] Ministry of Education Should Mind Its Own Business

[Opinion] Ministry of Education Should Mind Its Own Business

Posted July. 26, 2007 03:32,   


The 800 billion won donated by Samsung to society as a means of apology for its unlawful inheritance of business management right to family members is becoming the cause of continuous noise. Out of the amount, 730 billion won was transferred to the Samsung Equal Opportunity Scholarship Foundation established last year and is being spent on projects for those with less educational opportunity.

The Ministry of Education and Human Resource Management was severely scolded by public opinion when it employed the retirees of the Ministry of Education as 9 out of 11 staffers of the foundation office. Only two former employees of the Ministry of Education are still employed now, but the Ministry of Education already made society angry with its attitude regarding the scholarship foundation set up with the money of an enterprise as a mere affiliate.

This time the origin of the fuss is the share of Samsung Everland donated to the Ministry of Education. The market price of the donated 106,149 stock shares amounts to 74 billion won. Samsung transferred the stocks to the Ministry of Education to reduce its tax burden. When more than 5 percent of the whole share is donated to a public foundation, gift taxes and inheritance taxes are imposed. Samsung intended to donate 8.37 percent of all its Samsung Everland stocks, but was hindered by the “5 percent regulation.” To avoid the gift tax imposed on the donation of stock, Samsung subtracted 4.25 percent from the stocks and donated the rest to the Ministry of Education. The purpose of the donation remained the same, that “it should be used for projects supporting those with less educational opportunity in order to weaken bipolarization.”

Recently, the Ministry of Education aroused criticism that it is being greedy by attempting to transfer the donated share to the Korea Research Foundation, an affiliate of the Ministry of Education. Criticizers said that the Ministry of Education is actually attempting to gain management rights regarding the donated sum. The reaction by the Ministry of Education is that it is being falsely accused. It said that it left the donated sum in the hands of the Korea Research Foundation, which is currently in charge of scholarship programs, so that the donation can be used for people with less educational opportunity as intended by the donators. If the Ministry of Education handed the sum over to the Samsung Equal Opportunity Scholarship Foundation, it would be no different for the government to help Samsung to circumvent the gift tax, the Ministry of Education argued.

While this money was donated by Samsung to public society amongst the controversy around the inheritance of management rights, the conduct of the Ministry of Education transferring the donation to its affiliate is enough to cause suspicions that it is attempting to gain control of management and to position several persons in posts. When the Ministry of Education is involved in the management of the donated sum, there will be more chance for Cheong Wa Dae to frequently tell them what to do with the money. The role of the government is to provide links. The money should be handed over to Samsung Equal Opportunity Scholarship Foundation or another civil foundation.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com