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SNUH professors under investigation in antigraft case

Apr 28,2017
In golf, doctors and expensive golf clubs are par for the course, but one farewell gift has landed a group of 18 medical professionals in hot water.

Eighteen former and current professors at Seoul National University Hospital (SNUH) are currently under investigation for violating the Kim Young-ran Act (Improper Solicitation and Graft Act). Junior colleagues allegedly presented a retiring professor with high-priced golf clubs.

The incident involves the greatest number of individuals in a single instance since the enforcement of the anti-graft law began last September.

The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) went to work after one coworker of a now former 65-year-old professor at the Seoul National University College of Medicine gave an anonymous tip saying, “[The professor] received a high-priced golf club as a present.”

“A retirement present is an old medical college tradition,” the professor explained. However, the ACRC interpreted this as a violation of the Kim Young-ran Act and passed the case to the police.

The ACRC confirmed 17 junior colleagues of the professor, affiliated with institutions such as SNUH, SNU Bundang Hospital and SMG-SNU Boramae Medical Center, collectively contributed to the purchase of a Maruman golf iron set and one driver for a total of 7.3 million won ($6,460), or approximately 429,000 won per person.

The Kim Young-ran Act prohibits public officials from accepting gifts valued over 1 million won in a single exchange, regardless of the person’s job. The definition of “public official” extends beyond those in the civil service as journalists and teachers at private entities are also subject to the anti-graft law.

In the event of a violation, the punishment is a sentence of three years imprisonment and a fine of over 30 million won.

“All public institutions fall under the Kim Young-ran Act and prohibit the accepting of goods valued over 1 million won and as a rule are stipulated to request investigation,” said Jeong Yun-jeong, official at the ACRC. “We cannot know the judgment of the prosecution and the court.”

The case was passed over from the ACRC and the investigation by Seoul police corroborated that a violation had taken place. The professor was still considered a public official as the exchange occurred before his retirement in December.

“We gave the case to the prosecution for indictment,” said one police official.

According to the police investigation, the professor initially refused to accept the present, but the 17 junior colleagues swayed the academic, saying, “Doesn’t the Kim Young-ran Act only prohibit soliciting? What kind of returns could junior colleagues expect in exchange from a person retiring anyway?”

The prosecution must decide whether or not to indict him after the conclusion of the investigation.

BY KIM NA-HAN [hwang.hosub@joongang.co.kr]