Korea University blamed for misusing donations
A group of professors from Korea University (KU) alleged Friday that Kim Jae-ho, chairman of the school’s board, misappropriated some 22.7 billion won ($20.6 million) of donations.
The misuse of funds donated to universities has emerged as a significant social concern. In April, the education ministry fired the president and five board members at Sookmyung Women’s University after it found they had misused donations.
The ministry said it will launch a probe into the allegations raised by KU professors.
The professors held an emergency meeting Thursday to discuss the matter and other irregularities committed by board members.
In the case of Sookmyung, the school’s board received donations through its bank account, not the one opened under the name of the school, and transferred the money to the school later to make it look as if it came from the board.
The reason for the transfer was to get more subsidies from the government as it has encouraged foundations to invest more in their schools. Kim exploited a similar situation, according to the Korea University professors.
“The only difference was that Kim put donations directly into the accounts of the school’s foundation, and we’ll see how the ministry will handle this case,” a professor said.
Kim is also suspected of investing 9 billion won in the Dong-A Ilbo, one of the country’s major newspapers that he chairs. Of the total investment, he allegedly put 2 billion won into a cable channel operated by the newspaper, which began service in December, 2011. He also approved using 6.84 billion won for a new building.
The professors said they have formed an investigation committee to look into the case.
“Many of us deem that he is not suitable to carry out his role as chairman of the school foundation,” a professor said. “It seems the foundation exploits the school as if it is a subsidiary company of the Dong-A Ilbo.”
In related news, the head of the country’s traditional Confucian institution is under investigation for alleged extortion and embezzlement, prosecutors said.
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said Choi Gun-duk, 75, president of Sungkyunkwan, is accused of taking billions of won from 11 vice presidents for years and using the money.
Choi asked for the money to run the institution. But he instead has used 2.5 billion won out of the total amount he took from the vice presidents to purchase his own apartment, according to the prosecution.
The president of the centuries-old academic institute has the rights to appoint or dismiss each of its 11 vice presidents. And turning down Choi’s demand was “almost impossible” if they wanted to keep their seats, an investigator said.
Choi, a five-time president, has been a powerful figure at Sungkyunkwan in its recent history. He was first elected in 1994 by the elders of the institution. He then served as the intermediate president from 2003 to 2004, since which time he has retained his four-year seat for three consecutive terms until.
The prosecution has questioned accounting officials of the institution, and summoned Choi last month.
He admitted receiving money but denied any allegations of embezzlement.
“Giving money to the president was a long-standing practice within Sungkyunkwan,” Choi said.
“Regarding allegations on embezzlement, I presented the prosecution a financial record that shows 1.8 billion out of 2.5 billion won was spent to benefit the institution. I’m also positive that the rest of the amount was also used for a good cause.”
A Sungkyunkwan official said he believes the report on Choi was made by someone who has been upset with his continuous selection of specific people as vice president.
Prosecutors will decide this month whether to charge Choi over the allegations.
“We’re looking at this case very prudently as it involves the country’s most recognized Confucian group,” an investigator said.