Supreme Court convicts Kwak of bribery, hands down one-year term, orders return of W3.5b
The Supreme Court on Thursday found Seoul educational chief Kwak No-hyun guilty of bribery during his election in 2010, upholding a lower court ruling that sentenced him to one year in prison.
The superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education was stripped of his position immediately and will be back in prison for the eight months remaining on his sentence.
Kwak will also have to return the 3.52 billion won ($3.14 million) that he received from the National Election Commission for his election campaign.
Kwak No-hyun leaves the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education on Thursday. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
The 58-year-old was indicted last year on charges of offering some 200 million won ($179,000) to a rival candidate to drop out of the 2010 election.
He was in custody earlier for almost four months until a district court fined him 30 million won ($26,800) without a jail term in January. But his charge was enhanced by an appellate court, which sentenced him to one year in prison, though it was deferred until the top court’s ruling.
In the same ruling, the Supreme Court also upheld the lower court’s decision on Park Myong-gee of Seoul National University of Education, who took the bribe from Kwak, and ordered him ro one year and six months in jail, and also a forfeit of 200 million won.
Observers expect that the court’s decision will intensify the already heated presidential race for this year, as a re-election for Kwak’s post will be held simultaneously with the Dec. 19 presidential election. And the presidential candidates might need to consider a running mate at this.
Also, the empty seat left by Kwak is likely to affect some of the city’s key education policies, such as the free school lunch program.
Kwak pledged to provide all elementary and middle school students with free lunch during his campaign, and was planning to extend the annual budget for the program.
Meanwhile, Kwak’s attorney Kim Chil-joon said Thursday that it is regretful that the Supreme Court made a “hasty decision,” without waiting for the constitutional court’s ruling.
Kwak filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court earlier, seeking a retrial for his conviction, and is still waiting to hear from the court.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org