Police to probe ‘dirty deals’ for professorship at Korean universities

by E Wayne Ross on September 14, 2010

Police to probe ‘dirty deals’ for professorship at universities

Police will investigate allegations raised in a suicide note by an hourly lecturer who accused some universities of having requested kickbacks in exchange for professor jobs.

Gwangju Seobu Police Station said Thursday that its officers are trying to verify the contents of the five-page suicide note left by a 45-year-old hourly university lecturer at Chosun University, identified only by his surname Seo, who died from carbon monoxide poisoning.

The note is reportedly addressed to President Lee Myung-bak.

Seo also alleged that he was forced to write a number of academic papers on behalf of his supervising professor, insisting all the papers were published in the professor’s name. Investigators are currently questioning his family members and colleagues at the university to find out what drove him to end his life.

With Seo’s bereaved family members moving to take legal action against those implicated, the police will likely soon start an investigation into Seo’s allegations that he was asked to provide tens of millions of won by some universities in return for a permanent teaching position.

It is a widely-known secret that many universities here, particularly financially troubled private schools, demand large sums of money in return for a teaching position.

According to the police, Seo said in his note that he was offered the chance to buy a faculty position at a private university in South Jeolla Province for 60 million won two years ago. In March this year, he was also asked to donate 100 million for professorship by a private university in Gyeonggi Province.

Seo alleged that Chosun University was trying to kick him out, saying he had no choice but to kill himself under the mounting stress. “The country should do something for part-time lecturers. We also must do something to change the increasingly corrupt Korean society. I want an investigation into what I went through,’’ he was quoted as saying by the police.

The dead lecturer also claimed that he wrote a total of 54 thesis and other academic papers for his supervising professor and they were all published in the professor’s name, demanding investigation into the matter.

After receiving a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Seoul, he enrolled in graduate school at Chosun University and received a Masters degree and Ph.D. in English literature. Since 2000, he has been working as a lecturer at the university.

Police suspect that after failing to gain a permanent position two months ago, he became extremely disheartened and decided to take his own life.

Meanwhile, part-time lecturers at Chosun University plan to set up a memorial altar on the campus to pay tribute to him and organize a rally to demand law enforcement authorities get to the bottom of the corruption allegations raised by Seo.