Suh vs. Oh
KAIST chief rejects board chairman’s call for resignation
By Na Jeong-ju
KAIST President Suh Nam-pyo rejected calls from the school’s board to resign voluntarily Monday, claiming the demand was a politically motivated attempt masterminded by senior education officials who dislike him.
He criticized the board’s Chairman Oh Myung for leading the move to oust him, saying he committed no serious wrongdoings that would lead to him stepping down.
Suh’s remarks came after the board said it would vote on cancelling his contract at a meeting scheduled for Friday.
He is at loggerheads with Oh, and has indicated that he will launch a legal battle against the school’s board if it cancels the contract.
He expressed his wish to complete his given term (until 2014), saying he will continue reform programs aimed at making KAIST one of the top research universities in the world.
“They will have to fire me. I won’t quit of my own accord,” Suh said at a press conference in Seoul. “They are asking me to leave this school although I have a given term that will end in 2014. I won’t succumb to their unjustifiable demand.
“Chairman Oh should explain to me why I should leave now,” said Suh, a Korean-born naturalized American. “I didn’t do anything wrong that is serious enough to lose my job. I don’t understand why I should leave.”
He alleged that some high-ranking officials are behind the scheme to have him expelled from KAIST.
The 76-year-old former MIT professor has engaged in disputes with the council of KAIST professors who don’t like the way he manages the school. The major bones of contention are the stricter tenure rules and a merit-based pay system for professors, implemented by Suh in an effort to enhance the school’s research capabilities.
The council even raised allegations of patent theft by Suh. Police cleared him of the claims in June after an initial investigation although the case is currently being looked at by prosecutors.
Suh says that he was told by then Education Minister Ahn Byong-man in 2010 to quit halfway through his second term. Suh secured another four-year term that year despite protests from the professors’ council.
Sources from the ministry said it approved Suh’s second term on condition that he would quit in 2012, but that he is now refusing to leave.
“There would have been no approval for Suh’s second term if he didn’t promise that, because a majority of professors opposed another term at the time,” a senior ministry official told The Korea Times. “It was a deal for the benefit of both Suh and the professors. Suh, however, is denying the existence of the deal.”
The KAIST president said some board members did propose such a deal in 2010, but that he never accepted it.
A number of KAIST students have turned their back on Suh amid a series of suicides by students, which critics say was a result of the president’s reckless push for competition-oriented policies. A dozen members of the student council staged a rally beside a conference hall Monday to demand Suh’s immediate resignation.