According to Rep. Kang Min-jung from Democratic Party of Korea, Lee received funds from an edutech company, while running for the Seoul education chief last year. Two officials from the company donated 10 million won ($7,000) to Lee, who gathered a total of 74 million won for his campaign.
During the election campaign period, Lee wanted to introduce artificial intelligence-assisted education into classrooms, such as AI teaching assistants. He claimed these tools would allow schools to create a learning system targeted at students’ individual needs and help narrow the learning gap between students.
"I will make Seoul the hub of the AI revolution," Lee proclaimed upon entering the race, but later dropping out midway. Even after his nomination as education minister, Lee continued to stress the importance of introducing AI teaching tools.
Kang attacked Lee, claiming it was inappropriate for Lee to promote AI-related education policies after receiving funds from a related company.
"Lee should keep in mind that a minister should represent the public, rather than a certain group of interest,” Kang said. "I am concerned Lee may call for education policies benefiting a certain interest group even after becoming minister.”
The Education Ministry released a statement, saying Lee's funds were collected according to the law.
“Lee openly gathered funds following the related laws,” the ministry’s statement read. “The nominee will not be representing a certain group’s interest when he becomes the Education Minister, following the Public Service Ethics Law.”
Lee was also accused of having his daughter participate in a research paper as a professor at the Korea Development Institute School of Public Policy and Management.
Lee published a paper titled, "The Effects of Digital Textbooks on Students' Academic Performance, Academic Interest, and Learning Skills" in April 2020. Three more people were listed as co-authors for the paper, one of which was his daughter, an assistant professor at a university in the US.
The ministry said Lee's daughter participated in the paper as a fellow scholar.
“The paper verified the effects of digital textbooks using economic analysis models and the expertise of Lee’s daughter played its part,” the statement read, adding Lee and his daughter did not receive public funds on the project, except for a 1.7 million won scholarship from the KDI.
By Im Eun-byel (email@example.com)