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Nullification of Seoul Superintendent`s Election Upheld

Posted June. 11, 2009 08:28,   


An appellate court yesterday upheld the nullification of the election of Kong Jeong-taek, superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, but the education policies he pushed for will likely see no significant change.

Kong said, “I’m embarrassed by the unexpected ruling and will immediately file an appeal to the Supreme Court.”

Hence, confusion in education policy resulting from the superintendent’s ouster will likely be averted until at least the Supreme Court’s ruling, which is expected after July, when less than a year will remain in his term.

Even if the Supreme Court upholds the invalidation of his election, however, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education is likely to snub a by-election and have an acting superintendent under election law. If this happens, chances are high that Kong’s policies will continue to be implemented to avoid policy confusion.

Because of controversy over the legitimacy of Kong’s policies, they could lose momentum in the course of implementation.

The Korea Teachers and Educational Workers` Union issued a statement immediately after the ruling yesterday, demanding his resignation. “Superintendent Kong’s voluntary resignation is the minimum moral obligation for the sake of students, parents and teachers as the former chief of Seoul Metropolitan City’s education administration,” it said.

Seoul education officials also warned that Kong’s opponents will beef up their offensive against him given the latest ruling. One senior official said, “We’re not sure whether he can enjoy the same level of momentum in implementing education policies as before.”

Kong initially took the post through an indirect election of representatives in August 2004. Since his inauguration after last year’s reelection, he has been pushing for education policies centered on “self-regulation and competition” and “enhancement of academic performance.”

He has strived to complement areas Korea is lagging behind due to “egalitarian education policies.” His plans include an increase in the number of classes offered according to student ability, public international middle and high schools, and a program allowing students to select schools.

If the city’s education policy suffers a setback, the central government’s efforts to implement its education policy could also be affected.

One education leader said, “However good an education policy is, spreading it across the nation is difficult unless it is supported in Seoul,” adding, “With the superintendent for the Gyeonggi Province Office of Education strongly opposed to the government’s policies, education policies for elementary, middle and high schools, including the plan to designate self-regulated private high schools, are feared to fall into confusion.”

If Kong is confirmed to have violated election law by the court, he must return 2.85 billion won (2.3 million U.S. dollars) in government subsidies for his election costs to the National Election Commission.

kini@donga.com jameshuh@donga.com