The parliamentary audit was conducted as usual in 2018. The parliamentary audit is an open hearing where lawmakers inspect and audit activities of the government and other state institutions, as well as criticize social issues. The audit draws public attention not only because administrative agencies are operating well, but also because they can spot various social problems and detect irregularities. In fact, the parliamentary audit also investigated the issue of the Mir Foundation and the K-Sports Foundation in 2016. And the investigation was connected to Park Geun-hye/Choi Sun-sil case, which ended in the impeachment of former president, Park Geun-hye. Accordingly, lawmakers tried to publicize issues at the parliamentary audit. However, lawmakers have failed to attract public attention as they continue to show and repeat empty rhetoric as they always seem to do. Meanwhile, a number of major issues emerged at the end of the parliamentary audit, the biggest of them being the corruption of kindergarten. The issue was revealed by Park Yong-jin of the Democratic Party who disclosed an audit of the nation’s education offices from 2013 to 2017 about kindergarten. Park Yong-jin also made issues as he disclosed all the details of the investigation, including the address, name, and corruption of the kindergarten. The incident drew criticism from various kindergartens and shocked parents who believed in kindergarten and sent their children. The Kindergarten side has responded by publishing an apology and pointing out the education office’s audit system, which has intensified the controversy. CAH decided to find out about the kindergarten corruption that shocked the nation.
The Process of Revealing Corruption in Kindergarten
Kindergarten Audit by the Education Offices
Private kindergartens were originally classified as individual operators who made real estate or capital investments. However, when daycare centers and kindergartens were included in the government-made 'Nuri curriculum' in 2012, the state coffers were paid. As a result, private kindergartens were also monitored by the government. Nuri curriculum is a system that was established in 2012 to guarantee equal education and opportunities for children aged 3 to 5 with standard education implemented by the government. The system also provided private kindergartens with education based on the content. Thus, from 2013 to 2017, each level of education office audited 2,000 out of 6,000 kindergartens nationwide, and 1878 kindergartens were caught for financial corruption. And 95 percent of kindergartens caught in corruption were private kindergartens. Accordingly, the education office ordered owner of kindergartens who were caught in corruption to be corrected on a constant basis, but it was also found to have failed. The kindergartens continued to commit irregularities after receiving corrective action.
The Reluctance of Lawmakers
Despite the fact that 1878 kindergartens were caught in the corruption scandal, it was not known to the public at all. There is a close relationship between kindergartens and lawmakers. The organization currently in charge of kindergartens is the Korea Kindergarten Association. The Korea Kindergarten Association puts pressure on local lawmakers such as councilors and provincial councilors based on a strong network between teachers and parents. They are also exerting their influence on lawmakers. As a result, even if the education office tried to discipline or audit, it could not respond properly due to opposition from lawmakers and councilors.
Disclosure at the parliamentary audit in 2018.
Many lawmakers and other government officials have tried to check the corruption of kindergartens, but due to the above-mentioned reasons, proper sanctions on them have not been imposed. Park Yong-jin of the Democratic Party had a critical mind about this. He did not want to reveal this case at the parliamentary audit as if it were the current situation. So, he held a policy debate on October 5 to eliminate corruption in kindergartens. However, most of the participants, except for some parents, were members of the Korea Kindergarten Association, and they made Park Yong-jin's comments as well as holding umbrellas to block the event, blocking the discussion venue. As a result, Park Yong-jin released a list of details on SNS, including the location and contents of the illegal kindergartens. This angered many parents who demanded a thorough investigation and disciplinary action against the kindergartens.
Response of Kindergarten
Despite the numerous corruption cases, kindergartens have continued to respond in a rambling way. First of all, they said, “Park Yong-jin's list of corrupt kindergartens is fake news.” The Korea Kindergarten Association said Park and the National Assembly are denouncing private kindergartens as a corrupt group, and most of the actions taken by the education office are 96 percent, including warnings and matters acted on-site. However, considering the fact that the ministry did not correct the plan despite the ongoing disposal of the education office, and that the cost of providing support for the Nuri curriculum itself could be enough for individuals to buy adult goods or luxury bags. They also came up with a plan for collective action, thinking that tough measures such as mass closure would have to be opposed by parents and the government would have to step down. This is a completely contrary move to the public's sentiment and the view of private kindergartens is expected to worsen.
Admission and Apology for Corruption
Of course, some kindergartens have admitted to corruption and announced that they will make strong corrections to prevent this from happening in the future. However, many parents question whether their apology is sincere and there are many kindergartens who deny and do not comment on the irregularities. Further, more kindergartens will be caught if they conduct a full-fledged survey since the current survey is only one-third of all kindergartens. Also, despite the fact that they committed more serious irregularities than the currently revealed corruption cases, the ongoing lawsuits have not been included in the public list. Therefore, parents are still anxious.
Problems of Corruption in Kindergarten
Loose Management of Kindergarten
The private kindergarten is facing the current situation because owners of kindergartens do not consider kindergarten to be a nursery or an educational institution, but rather consider kindergarten as a means of generating profits. The problem seems to be getting worse because owners see only the possibility of profit creation, not the quality or convenience of their children's education. But kindergartens across the country are always in short supply, so the government has given schools permission to open without proper verification, even though kindergartens are educational institutions. Parents also know that private kindergartens are poor in quality, but they don't have the right to choose them, so they send any kindergarten their children. The vicious circle should be solved by increasing the number of state-owned kindergartens or increasing the number of public kindergartens.
Absence of Proper System in the Education Office
As mentioned above, private kindergartens were audited by the government for receiving support from the state coffers for the establishment of the Nuri curriculum in 2012. However, because the Nuri curriculum did not include a proper definition of private kindergartens, they were originally privately owned but were subject to the Private School Law in an instant. It is a problem that has arisen because the government has not properly prepared for this. Owners of private kindergartens have been confused in the process, which is why the education office has been heavily audited. Therefore, it is time for the right standards and definition of private kindergartens.
The corruption scandal in kindergarten has resulted from the accumulation of corruption in the kindergarten industry and a lack of commitment among lawmakers to improve it. Kindergarten owners saw kindergarten as a means of profit creation, not as an original educational institution. But kindergartens are small communities where children learn things they need to live in the world and how to apply them. In other words, kindergarten is an obvious educational institution and not a place to be sacrificed for adult moneylending. The reason why many people are angry is the same. Many of the institutions that teach the purest and clearest children are tainted by adult's greed. As can be seen in the recent corruption case in kindergarten, the attitude of institutions that do not lose their original purpose is very important. Internal self-restraint is also important to ensure that an institution does not lose its original purpose. However, internal self-restraint is always limited, which requires an agency to check and monitor institutions. Though that is the role of the education office, it failed to play its role and even the public's representative lawmakers failed to pay close attention to the incident due to their own interests. The recent issue of corrupt kindergartens does not simply mean loose management of kindergartens, but rather warns about the trend of individual and collective selfishness prevailing in our society. < 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >