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Part-time Lecturer Cries Univ. Corruption in Suicide Note

Part-time Lecturer Cries Univ. Corruption in Suicide Note

Posted May. 28, 2010 15:13,   


The widow of a 45-year-old part-time university lecturer who committed suicide cried while carrying the box of her husband’s ashes in a cemetery in Gwangju, saying, “Who made you like this?”

The man’s older brother placed the box in the charnel house and said while sobbing, “He had no money to lobby so he couldn’t become a professor. I feel so sorry for him.”

The suicide note said the lecturer, who worked part-time at universities for a decade, was offered a professorship for 100 million won (81,000 U.S. dollars) and killed himself via suffocation by burning a charcoal briquette in his living room.

The man’s suicide brought to light the dirty practice of giving bribes for a professorship in Korea.

A part-time lecturer at Chosun University in Gwangju, he left five copies of a handwritten letter describing the role of bribery in becoming a professor and ghostwriting of academic papers is common.

In a letter titled “Dear President Lee Myung-bak,” he wrote, “A professorship costs between 150 million (122,500 dollars) and 300 million won (245,100 dollars). I got such an offer twice. Two years ago, the offer was 60 million won (49,200 dollars) from a private university in South Jeolla Province, and two months ago, 100 million won (81,700 dollars) from a private university in Gyeonggi Province.”

The lecturer also described corruption in the writing of academic papers by targeting a certain professor in one letter. “Why are you taking advantage of me so often? Do you want to dump me because I’m no longer worthy as your servant? I hate the world. I hate Korean universities,” he said.

“All 54 joint papers with the professor were written by me and the only thing he did was to add his name to them. Please let the world know about this and help me proceed with the legal battle.”

The professor in question denied the allegation, however, saying, “I tried to help his papers get published with academic associations nationwide and to assist him in becoming a professor. It’s unfair.”

The university held an emergency meeting and decided to investigate the papers related to the professor whom the lecturer mentioned in his suicide note.

The lecturer graduated from a private university in Seoul in 1993 with a bachelor’s in Chinese and ran an English cram school in Gwangju. He later studied English in graduate school, earning a master’s in 1997 and a Ph.D in 2002.

He applied for a professorship 20 times over eight years while working as a part-time lecturer. One of his colleagues said, “He was the best in phonology but the road to being a professor is tough.”

Other colleagues said it is an open secret that certain universities in Seoul ask for 500 million won (408,500 dollars) in a bribe for a professorship, those in Gyeonggi Province 300 million won (245,100 dollars), provincial universities 100 million (81,700 dollars), and provincial two-year colleges tens of millions of won (tens of thousands of dollars).

One colleague said, “Large universities decide who to select before publicly recruiting candidates, and money is paid in the process.”

The lecturer worked at several universities but his monthly pay was a mere one million won (817 dollars). His wife worked as a waitress at a restaurant to earn money for their son’s university costs and for their daughter, who is preparing for the college entrance exam.

The deceased wrote to his wife, “Since my life was a series of tribulations, I wanted to ask for your forgiveness on the day I became a professor. I`m sorry I couldn’t make that dream come true.”

The lecturer’s brother said, “I’ll let the world know about university corruption and send (my brother’s) letters to the presidential office and the National Human Rights Commission of Korea to prevent others from falling victim.”

shjung@donga.com peneye09@donga.com