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Teacher denies leaking exam answers

Prosecutors charged him over allegations he let daughters cheat
Nov 07,2018
A teacher at a private high school accused of leaking exam questions to his twin daughters denied the allegations to a Seoul court at a hearing for his arrest on Tuesday.

The suspect, a 53-year-old man identified only by his surname Hyeon, was charged by prosecutors with obstruction of business for allegedly passing exam questions to his daughters at Sookmyung Girls’ High School, where he is a senior faculty member.

“We rebutted the accusations of leaking one by one, and [the police] do not have clear evidence,” Hyeon’s lawyer told reporters after the hearing.

The Seoul Central District Court had yet to rule on whether to issue a warrant for his arrest as of press time Tuesday.

Hyeon’s twin daughters, currently sophomores, recorded the top scores on their spring semester finals, which was out of step with their earlier academic record.

Parents at the school questioned whether their father, a tenured faculty member, leaked exam questions and answers to them prior to the test.

The Suseo Police Precinct, which investigated the matter, filed for Hyeon’s arrest last week, claiming that the teacher already tried to dispose of evidence and would likely continue to do so if not detained. Suspiciously, Hyeon replaced his computer immediately after the case was brought to light in August, police said.

Police began their investigation in September per the request of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education. It concluded through its own inquiry that cheating was likely, given that the daughters’ grades rose rapidly in relation to earlier assessments and that they had given the same wrong answers to some of the questions.

The girls were ranked 59th and 121st among around 460 students attending the school during their first semester last year. Since then, they have both jumped to first place in the fields of liberal arts and sciences.

A subsequent police probe found memos inside the girls’ phones with answers to test questions as well as booklets at their home also filled with test questions and answers. Police also pointed to the fact that Hyeon worked late-night shifts alone at a teachers’ lounge where the test was kept inside a safe as evidence that he may have leaked the exam’s content.

Hyeon and his two daughters both deny the allegations, saying the documents found on the phones were correct exam answers written down after the test had already been taken and graded.

“The fact that their scores rose rapidly and exam-related material was found on the girls’ phones shows they were studying hard through supplementary material,” said Hyeon’s lawyer after an earlier hearing on Monday. “[Hyeon] expressed how victimized he felt at the hearing.”

Located in the fiercely competitive academic district of Gangnam, Sookmyung Girls’ High School has multiple faculty members whose children attend the school and receive discounted tuition.

According to the Ministry of Education, 23.7 percent of high schools nationwide have the children of faculty members enrolled. While faculty members at most public schools are banned from enrolling their children at the same institution, private schools do not face such a restriction.

Only after the alleged cheating scandal surfaced in August did the ministry decide to extend the rule to private schools, starting next March.


BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]