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Hundreds of principals accused of bribery

The Seoul education office has identified 220 principals and teachers of the capital city’s elementary and secondary schools implicated in bribery and irregularities.

According to preliminary results of audit by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education starting in April, about 200 bribery and corruption cases were detected, involving 220 principals and teachers who will face penalty.

The preliminary result shows that corruption is still prevalent in schools in Seoul and raises ethical issues of principals who control school’s administrative work.

The audit targeted 67 public elementary, middle and high schools, where principals are retiring next month. The Seoul education office will announce the official result of its audit in August.

“As principals are more likely to be implicated in corruption when they are near retirement, the audit was launched preventively to show principals that they may be vulnerable,” said an auditor of the Seoul education office. “The audit focused on school accounting.”

“The audit would be regularly conducted by district education offices, but this time the Seoul Metropolitan Education Office took charge of the inspection,” said another audit official.

Bribery scandals small and big have plagued Seoul-based schools. From 2009 to 2010, a spate of bribery cases were detected, including selling teaching positions, receiving bribes from companies in a school trip deal, altering student records illegally and illicit school admission.

A total of 118 teaching staff faced disciplinary action in 2009. Last year, an elementary school principal was caught pocketing public money from a construction project for a school playground. Several other principals were found to have received bribes in the process of buying air filters.

About 10 percent of principals found implicated in irregularities in the latest audit are expected to lose their jobs, with the rest likely to see their wages cut or disadvantaged in promotion review.

By Lee Woo-young  (