The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Official residence

By 최남현

Published : March 15, 2011 - 19:02

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It seems that Seoul Education Superintendent Kwak Noh-hyun has felt an acute need to use an official residence since his election last June. This week, the Seoul Metropolitan Education Office proposed the revision of a decree on official properties to enable the acquisition of official residences for the education superintendent and vice superintendent.

The office offered two reasons: First, the education chief of the capital city needs to entertain domestic and foreign VIPs at an official residence instead of his private home and, second, better security should be provided for the official with heavy responsibilities to manage all primary, middle and high schools in Seoul and all teachers there. It is quite likely that the revised decree submitted by the liberal education superintendent will be passed by the Seoul City Council controlled by the opposition Democratic Party.

Yet, we have a question as to whether Kwak has so many official guests, including foreign visitors, during the past eight months that he needs to build or buy an official residence at the cost of billions of won (millions of dollars). Second, we wonder if the security problem for the education chief is so serious that he has to be protected in an official residence. The same questions are raised about the vice superintendent.

Since his election with the support of 34 percent of Seoul citizens, Kwak has carried out a series of reforms for primary and secondary education, the most controversial of which is providing free school lunches. This year, the Seoul Education Office has to pay 116 billion won for the school lunch program, which severely constricts its budget. Spending several billions of won on official residences can hardly be justified in this situation.

We would suggest that the education chief ask the electorate about the official residence plan when he seeks reelection in 2014 and entertain occasional guests until that time at hotels or restaurants as his predecessors have done.