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Seoul education chief indicted, suspended

Prosecutors on Wednesday indicted Kwak No-hyun, Seoul’s education superintendent, on charges of buying his rival candidate out of last year’s election.

His job as Seoul education chief was immediately suspended in accordance with a provincial educational law. Lim Seung-bin, deputy chief, will serve as acting superintendent, officials said.

The 57-year-old disgraced education chief is charged with having offered 200 million won ($174,064) to Park Myoung-gee, professor at Seoul National University of Education, in six installments between February and April in return for Park’s withdrawal from the race.

His charges also include offering Park a senior position at the Seoul education advisory committee in June.

Park dropped out of the race two weeks before the vote began, while urging liberals to unite behind Kwak. Kwak won the election in June 2010, beating six candidates, mostly conservatives.

Park was detained on Aug. 29 on bribery charges, while Kwak was detained on Sept. 10.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office also indicted Kang Gyeong-sun, professor of Seoul National Open University who is Kwak’s close friend. Kang is alleged to have wired the 200 million won to bank accounts of Park’s brother in four installments between February and April this year, acting on behalf of Kwak.

“With the unprecedentedly large amount of money, (Kwak) distorted the popular consensus. As there were too many false statements by Kwak and other related people, it is inevitable to indict and detain him,” said a prosecution official, declining to be named.

Although Kwak has claimed that the money was given out of “good will,” not for anything in return, the prosecution said that it cannot be seen as an expression of good will as there was much circumstantial evidences indicating that the money was given for an illegitimate purpose.

Prosecutors believe that after their working-level officials agreed to unify candidates, Kwak’s side promised to offer Park 700 million won and the position at the Seoul education advisory committee.

The indictment comes 44 days after the prosecution began probing the case after receiving investigation materials from the state election watchdog on Aug. 8.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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