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Seoul Superintendent`s Broken Pledges

Posted July. 27, 2010 13:39,   


The superintendent of Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, Kwak No-hyun, used to be chief adviser for the establishment of the human rights ordinance for students in Gyeonggi Province. Long before he caused controversy over his order to prohibit corporal punishment at Seoul schools, he included the same ban in the ordinance for Gyeonggi schools. If he makes a student human rights ordinance for Seoul, he could include a clause on letting students express their free will on matters affecting them and defending their right to lie.

Before taking office as superintendent, Kwak pledged to consider the opinions of the 65 percent of voters who did not support him in last month’s local elections. The list of members of the educational office’s personnel committee shows that seven of the panel’s nine members are outsiders and that six of the seven members are leftists. All four members of the disciplinary committee, a body which was reorganized earlier, are also left leaning. Kwak has broken his promise to become a superintendent who embraces all economic and ideological sides.

Lawyer Park Joo-hyun, who was appointed to the personnel committee, and lawyer Kim Jin-wook, who was named to the disciplinary panel, donated five million won (4,205 U.S. dollars) each to Kwak before the elections. A presidential secretary under the previous Roh Moo-hyun administration, Park said she was not attracted to a position of the personnel committee. It might not be a significant post for her, but a personnel committee member is an influential position affecting the appointments of 48,000 teachers in Seoul. Kim also denied a connection between his donation and his appointment to the disciplinary panel. In their eyes of lower-income earners, for whom five million won is not peanuts, his appointment was secured in exchange for a donation.

In his election campaign, Kwak warned that if another conservative candidate was elected, educational corruption and privileges for the rich would persist. Perhaps voters might have expected him to implement fair education and personnel appointments. Speaking roughly, however, his appointments constitute the sale of public posts. Though the appointments do not violate the law on political funds, giving key posts to financial contributors will undermine the neutrality and fairness of the committees. Kwak could favor teachers who are members of the left-leaning Korean Teachers and Education Workers` Union in appointments. What will students learn from such an education superintendent?

Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (yuri@donga.com)