Overshadowed by the presidential campaign, another heated race is under way for the top post of education in Seoul.
The by-election for the superintendent of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education is to be held simultaneously with the Dec. 19 presidential election.
Although political parties cannot directly be involved in the election of a superintendent, but candidates for both president and superintendent are forming coalitions in order to boost their chances of winning in next month’s elections.
So far, the field of candidates has grown to 12, including three considered conservative, five associated with liberal parties and four independent.
Former Education Minister Moon Yong-lin has recently joined the growing number of educators running for Seoul superintendent of education.
Moon, a professor at Seoul National University, until recently served as an adviser to Park Geun-hye, the presidential candidate of the ruling Saenuri Party.
The 64-year-old Moon is among three candidates shortlisted from the conservative groups for the superintendent position. The other two finalists are: Kim Jin-seong, 72, co-head of the National Coalition for Public Education and Seo Jeong-hwa, 65, the principal of Hongik High School.
While Moon is considered having a strong edge over other two, a special committee from the conservative groups is to vote Friday to pick the final candidate.
The conservative party is taking the by-election seriously as it believes it’s a chance to retake the superintendent post from liberals following the termination of former Seoul educational chief Kwak No-hyun, who pursued a series of progressive reform policies, including free school meals.
But the conservative party is facing criticism from other candidates over its direct intervention in the election.
“The closed-door decision by the political party to name a candidate from key members of its presidential election camp has politicized the role of education chief,” said Lee Gyu-seok, head of the school education office at the Ministry of Education, Science and technology.
Lee was also among top candidates of the conservative group, but he is now running as an independent candidate.
Meanwhile, for the liberal camp, Lee Soo-ho, former chief of the Korea Teachers and Education Workers’ Union, is considered a favorite. Other runners include Song Soon-jae, chief of the Seoul Education Training Institute and Lee Bu-yeong, former member of the Seoul Metropolitan Education Committee and Chung Yong-sang, professor of Law at Dongguk University.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org