Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top Seoul Educator On Duty Behind Bars

One week after claiming that his secret 200 million won ($169,000) cash payment - via a third-party to a rival candidate in six installments who shortly after dropped out of the race - was a 'goodwill gesture', Seoul's top educator and most generous benefactor has begun performing his duties behind bars at the Seoul Detention Center, showing his populist determination not to resign from his post.

On his first day of incarceration, The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said that its three most senior remaining officials paid a visit to 57 year-old Superintendent Kim for the first time to brief him on a range of pending business issues, and certainly not to discuss their own future accommodation preferences at the Center. Kim is allowed to meet with up to three people on official matters for 30 minutes twice a week, which close aides say may have doubled his workload.

If Kim is convicted of bribery and corruption in public office, he could receive a jail term of up to seven years or be fined 5 to 30 million won. If the punishment is severe enough, if could even result in him being stripped of his post. Liberal and other pro-bribery groups including the Korean Teachers and Education Workers' Union have insisted Kim be released immediately.

Despite his difficult circumstances, other officials and politicians who visited Superintendent Kim in jail say the system seems to be working well, and Kim has not been inconvenienced by his imprisonment since his cell features a hatch for food and another slot where money can be passed through.

Some citizens have gone so far as to suggest that the Superintendent's incarceration might represent a future model for representation in Korea, with elected officials being immediately imprisoned rather than going through the formalities of waiting for them to get caught. "It would reduce a great deal of police and legal time", said one 49 year-old political analyst, "and the Kim model shows that they can still perform most of their legal duties from prison, though admittedly, fewer of their illegal ones."

The model might prove successful in other fields too. Some say that if Seoul's top educator can work from behind bars, perhaps other educators might be able to. The Ministry of Education says it is considering whether to begin a trial of the new system with native-English teachers.

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