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Bribery Scandal Hits Famed Elementary School in Seoul

Posted October. 07, 2010 02:46,   


A famed elementary school in Seoul has been caught for admitting students in return for a combined 1.8 billion won (1.6 million U.S. dollars) in bribes from their parents.

Parents who paid the bribes were mostly high-income professionals such as professors at elite universities, researchers, lawyers and doctors.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said Tuesday that it sought arrest warrants for two former principals of the elementary school affiliated with a university in Seoul’s Seongdong district on the charge of embezzlement.

The two reportedly collected bribes of 10 million won (8,900 dollars) per person from the parents of students who were not admitted via lottery in return for accepting them through supplementary admission. The two are also known to have taken rebates from contractors of school construction projects and misappropriating them for private entertainment and tours.

One of the principals received 1.66 billion won (1.5 million dollars) from 102 parents while serving as principal from 2004 to the first semester of 2008. The other took received 1.82 billion won (1.6 million dollars) from 118 parents, including 160 million won (140,000 dollars) collected from 16 parents between August 2008 and August this year, in return for admitting students under extra admission quotas.

Of the funds, the two former principals spent more than 420 million won (370,000 dollars) on entertainment, travel and vacations. The second person also took some 25 million won in kickbacks from seven suppliers of school construction projects.

Though the school admitted a large number of students beyond official quotas every year, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education was unaware of illegal admissions partly because of sloppy oversight and inspection. With the number of enrolled students adjusted to meet official quotas due to new vacancies resulting from transfer students, those admitted under extra quotas were able to graduate without difficulty.

The parents of the children who entered the school illegally included a professor at a leading private university in Seoul, a researcher at a national think tank, doctors, lawyers and businesspeople. They were highly educated people who were likely fully aware of the illegality of their actions.

Police have yet to take legal action against the parents, however, saying, “There is no evidence that they were clearly aware of the illegality of the practice.”

Police also sought an arrest warrant for a teacher on the suspicion of embezzling 98.6 million won (87,000 dollars) in funds for Boy Scout activities and using the money to repay personal debts.

They also booked without detention the director of the elementary school’s English education department for reportedly taking bribes from a supplier for using certain English textbooks and the chief of the school’s administration office, who allegedly kept the irregularities committed by the two principals under wraps.