Education Minister takes office, apologizes for drunk driving
Published : Jul 5, 2022 - 17:59
Updated : Jul 5, 2022 - 17:59
Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Park Soon-ae speaks during an inauguration ceremony held at Government Complex Sejong on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Park Soon-ae on Tuesday apologized for driving under the influence of alcohol and vowed to reform the country’s education system, as she took office about a month after her nomination.

Park, a former professor at Seoul National University’s Graduate School of Public Administration, met with the press at Government Complex Sejong on Tuesday following her inauguration ceremony.

Her nomination for the post raised doubts as she was caught driving while intoxicated in 2001. She was indicted to the court, but a sentence was withheld.

“I have regretted the mistake for the past 20 years,” Park said. “I know that I do not meet the standards of the people in many ways. I believe there would be an opportunity to explain myself at the National Assembly.”

“I do not know why the judge reached that verdict,” she said in regards to the suspension of her sentence. “I have been sparing my words as there could be misunderstandings if I relied on my memories as it had happened such a long time ago.”

The nomination was also criticized for her lack of experience in education. Though she worked as a professor, Park is a public administration expert without much experience in the education field.

“The president believes the nation could not offer desired education services as there is a conflict of interest among related figures. I believe he chose me as I am a person who is a step away from the education scene. I can push the drive of education reform with a neutral perspective,” she said.

“I hope our children can be smarter than those from other countries. The level of smartness differs from time to time, but now, the children (of Korea) are not the ones excelling (globally). I hope our talents could be the best in the world and the nation can provide the needed resources,” she said, when asked about education reform.

Park further hinted at lifting restrictions for universities and offering lifelong education for the people.

Park was approved Monday without undergoing the parliamentary confirmation process after the deadline for the related hearings passed. Though the nominations were made more than a month ago, the National Assembly has been unable to hold a confirmation hearing as the process has been stalled for weeks.

Adding to the charge of drunk driving, Park has also been accused of mistreating teaching assistants, violating research ethics and more. She has denied the allegations, labeling them as “misunderstandings.”

By Im Eun-byel (