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[Opinion] Presidential Office, a Revolving Door

Posted May. 28, 2008 03:57,   


Rumors are circulating concerning the sudden resignation of Korean Council for University Education Director-General Kim Young-sik, failing to fulfill the remaining two years of term. Despite pressure from the presidential office, Kim insisted that the president cannot control the position because the council is not a state-run organization but an independent consultative organization for university presidents. But Kim’s former colleague, who is a director in the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, asked him to resign. It’s the first time for a council president to resign in the middle of his term due to pressure from the outside since the establishment of the body in 1982.

The Korean Council for University Education along with presidents of 201 Korean universities will take over tasks related to college admissions from the Education Ministry beginning this year, according to the new administration’s independent college admission policy. It has transformed the organization into one that creates a new college admission framework and manages the system. As Kim resigned just as Sogang University President Sohn Byeong-doo became council president on April 8, there is a concern that his absence could undermine the basic planning and management for 2009 college admissions.

Professor Kim Dae-sik of Dongseo University, who served on the presidential transition committee, has been hinted to be the next director-general. Kim managed the “Advanced People’s Alliance,” a civic group that supported then presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak. Kim, who majored in Japanese literature, has nothing to do with college admissions. The only related experience is that he served as the president of the National College Admissions Council in 2006-7. It is said that Presidential Secretary of Education, Science and Culture Lee Joo-ho is responsible for appointing those who contributed to the victory of the president in the elections. There are also rumors in the Education Ministry that Lee’s influence exceeds that of education minister.

As was seen in the case of the 2008 Korean SAT, which graded students only based on score brackets, a little glitch in the college admission can drive universities, students and parents into chaos. Only when an expert of college admissions becomes the director-general can chaos, which has the attention of the whole country, be prevented. President Lee’s low approval rating and his failure to communicate with the public lie in poor personnel management. It is absurd to give the director-general position that controls college admissions to a person who helped the president win the election. It remains to be seen whether they can see this reality.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)