(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paragraphs 4, 8, 10; photo EDITS)
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) — Candidate for Education Minister Kim In-chul resigned on Tuesday over allegations of favoritism over his family’s awarding of scholarships from an organization nonprofit jointly supported by the U.S. and South Korean governments.
Kim became the first ministerial candidate in the new Yoon Suk-yeol government to step down.
“Today I am resigning my candidacy for the post of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education. I wanted to give back the benefits I had received from the country and society through my last (public) service but it I missed a lot,” Kim said in a reunion. with reporters at his desk.
“I won’t give any explanation. It’s all my fault and negligence,” he said, expressing his apologies to President-elect Yoon and wishing his government success.
Kim, former president of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS), was appointed by Yoon on April 13 as education minister and deputy premier of social affairs. But controversy erupted after it was revealed. Kim served as president of the Korea Fulbright Alumni Association from 2012 to 2015, and her son and daughter received Fulbright scholarships around the same time.
Kim and his wife also received Fulbright scholarships years earlier. Kim denied the favoritism allegations, saying all Fulbright scholarship recipients were fairly selected.
The Fulbright scholarship program is managed by the Korean-American Educational Commission, a non-profit institution jointly sponsored by Seoul and Washington to promote bilateral cultural and educational exchanges. The Democratic Party (DP) estimates that the total amount of Fulbright scholarships awarded to Kim’s family could be between 300 million won ($236,000) and 400 million won.
The DP also raised allegations of plagiarism of Kim’s thesis, use of violent words toward HUFS students, and other misconduct. Kim’s parliamentary confirmation hearing was scheduled for Friday.
After hearing the news of Kim’s resignation, DP leader Rep. Park Hong-geun said Yoon’s other ministerial candidates tainted by various allegations should also step down as soon as possible.
The minor opposition Justice party demanded an apology from Yoon and urged Kim to face an investigation into his allegations.