SEOUL, The government and the ruling Democratic Party (DP) agreed Thursday to push for strict measures to eradicate irregularities and enhance accounting transparency at private kindergartens.
Government and DP officials held a meeting amid growing public uproar sparked by a lawmaker's revelation of widespread corruption among preschool owners, including accounting fraud, budget misappropriation and other irregularities.
The two sides discussed a set of measures to tackle such problems including increasing the number of state-run kindergartens and applying a state accounting system currently used in schools, called Edufine, to private kindergartens.
"There is a need to improve preschools' accounting system and make up for shortcomings. We will enhance private preschools' public role and transparency in their operation," Hong Young-pyo, the floor leader of the DP, said at the start of the meeting.
Rep. Park Yong-jin from the DP recently unveiled a list of about 1,900 private kindergartens that were found to be involved in nearly 6,000 cases of accounting fraud, budget misappropriation and other irregularities during education authorities' inspections from 2013-17.
Private preschools have been receiving state subsidies since 2012, in addition to tuition from parents. A number of owners of kindergartens were found to have misused taxpayer money for inappropriate purposes, including buying private items.
A group representing private preschools apologized to the public over the row. But it also expressed displeasure at the revelation by the lawmaker that could lead the public to misunderstand that all private kindergartens are corrupt.
Yoo Eun-hae, a new education minister and deputy prime minister on social affairs, warned of stringent punishment if private preschools take actions such as a collective strike or suspension of receiving new children.
"If private kindergartens take such group actions, there will be stringent sanctions after the corporate watchdog's probe as they are in violation of the fair trade law," Yoo said at the start of the meeting.
"To increase the portion of state-run kindergartens to 40 percent, we will map out detailed plans and closely consult with state and city offices of education."
Source: Yonhap News Agency