May 16 was a shocking day for all HUFS students. On this day, the Emergency Planning Committee (EPC) of the Seoul Campus announced that the EPC vice president, surnamed Nam, had embezzled money from the EPC budget. Finally, the vice president has resigned after it was confirmed that he embezzled money from the EPC budget.
How did this scandal begin, and what are the key issues surrounding it? This month’s Cover Story looks into Nam’s case. The Argus will explain to our readers the most important aspects of this case and show a timeline of the scandal.
Brief outline of Nam’s case
The EPC upheld the decision to have Nam resign, with all 47 student representatives agreeing, at an emergency student meeting on May 19. It also arrived at a settlement under which it would request the school to take disciplinary action against Nam.
The EPC revealed on May 16 that it had found Nam to have embezzled a total of 2.3 million Korean won from the EPC budget, including 60,000 won in cash and 2.24 million won that he transferred into his personal bank account in a total of 14 transactions, from April 22 to May 10.
Nam had managed an account that had 8,220,940 won carry-over from last year’s EPC. The EPC members asked Nam to disclose a breakdown of his card use last month, but he continuously delayed doing so.
The EPC secretary established that the vice president had embezzled public money after checking his bank statements on May 15. After the secretary discovered his embezzlements, Nam admitted to misappropriating public funds, saying, “I used [public funds] to repay my personal debt.”
The vice president, however, spent only 229,805 won to pay off debts while using the remaining amount for his private use, according to documents from Nam’s bank account provided by the EPC.
Baek Yu-jin, the current EPC president, filed a complaint against Nam with the Seoul Dongdaemun Police Office on May 17. The university announced that it would examine the question of how to punish Nam if the police office identified him as a suspect in the embezzlement case.
Nam’s official apology after his resignation
After Nam stepped down from office, the EPC uploaded a written apology from him to its Facebook page on May 21.
The former vice president said the EPC had to begin many projects with the carry-over from the former EPC after it took office on March 24. According to Nam, he accepted the leftover budget of 8,220,940 won from the former EPC president in two installments 909,777 won and 7,311,163 won transferred on April 4 and April 24, respectively.
Nam said he realized that he had been wrong when he thought it would be acceptable to use public funds for personal use and then later repay the money with his scholarship funds, which were supposed to be deposited into his account in May.
He added that he withdrew the embezzled money, 2.24 million won, on May 16. The EPC revealed in an interview with The Argus that Nam also returned an additional 60,000 won in cash after the scandal was uncovered and Nam was asked to give it back.
“I am sorry,” said Nam. “I respect the decision that I should resign and be punished, and upon sincere reflection, I can say that I did an immature and wrong thing.”
Emergency student meeting on May 17
The EPC held an emergency student meeting on May 17 after notifying students about Nam’s misappropriation via its Facebook page on May 16. At the meeting, the EPC members talked with students about important aspects of the scandal, and Nam answered several questions from the audience. Specific information on this meeting is as follows.
1. Why did only Nam maintain the bank account?
Park Jae-hyun, Dept. of Spanish ’13, asked why the EPC let a single person take absolute control of the EPC budget. She argued that EPC President Baek Yu-jin should also take responsibility for not being aware of the risk of embezzlement.
“There was no discussion about disciplinary actions for Baek,” answered the student president of the College of Oriental Languages (COL), who is also an EPC member.
Baek acknowledged that she had been at fault for failing to institute a mechanism for oversight of the budget. The EPC president explained that she could not manage the money carried over from the former EPC in her bank account since she had already used her account as student president of the College of Social Sciences. Therefore, the vice president was the only possible person to open the account for the carry-over, she added.
2. Should Nam be allowed to resign, or should he be impeached?
While the meeting was called in part to ask Nam to resign from his position, a dispute erupted over whether it would be more appropriate for him to be impeached.
Kim Dong-kyu, Dept. of Russian ’12, argued that the term “resignation” was not appropriate in this case, requesting a change to the term “impeachment.” He supported his stance by arguing that if the EPC has the same responsibilities as the General Student Council (GSC), this implicitly means that the EPC’s members can be impeached like members of the GSC.
The president of COL responded that school regulations did not allow for impeachment of members of the EPC. She mentioned that there are existing impeachment regulations that apply to the GSC, while the same is not the case for the EPC.
3. Nam’s answers to students’ questions
Nam made an appearance two hours after the meeting began. He had been scheduled to attend the meeting from the beginning, but he quickly ducked out after realizing the meeting was being broadcast live on Facebook. He returned to the meeting after the EPC acceded to his request to prohibit any photography or videography of the event.
The suspect apologized for his actions and promised that he would make a sincere effort to cooperate with the police investigation. He disclosed few new details about his actions in front of the crowd.
He mentioned that the embezzled money was used not only for his debts, but also to play sports toto, an online gambling game.
Hwang Min-ju, Dept. of Italian ’16, asked for a history of the misappropriation of the EPC budget, including the use of cash. However, Nam did not give a clear answer about how much he spent in cash. He promised that he would make an itemized list of his cash use and submit it to the EPC.
Timeline and context of the scandal
The EPC released Kakao Talk messages that the committee members exchanged with Nam and explanations of their context on May 17. The Argus also interviewed current EPC President Baek Yu-jin, who gave us further information to help us understand this context. Based on the messages and the interview, The Argus has reconstructed a timeline of the scandal.
According to Baek, the EPC uses two cards for its business: One is a card for educational expenditures, and the other is a scholarship card. The former uses money that the school has given to the EPC. The latter draws from all the EPC’s other financial resources except the educational funds and student council fees - such as money that EPC executive branch members donated out of their school scholarships, and advertising expenses.
Baek said Nam had embezzled money only from this scholarship card account, not from the expenditure card account. The scholarship account was also in Nam’s name, according to Baek.
Nam did not use the scholarship card and instead let the EPC members use their personal cards for the EPC’s public activities, then repaid them later, the EPC explained.
1. On May 9, Nam said the EPC did not have a card for the scholarship but only one for school funds. Nam claimed he lost the scholarship card, although the account for the scholarship still existed.
2. On May 10, the EPC secretary, surnamed Lee, asked Nam why he had not created a scholarship card even though he was going to use the money on the card during upcoming volunteer work. She added that using other cards for payment and refunding the money later made the accounting process difficult and created vagueness about the whereabouts of the money.
As seen above, Nam did not make the card for the scholarship account after allegedly having lost the card; instead he transferred money to EPC members, who then used their personal money for EPC-related expenses. This made the precise whereabouts of the money difficult to trace.
3. On May 13, Lee asked how much money was left in the scholarship account at the moment. Nam told her it contained about 3.8 million won.
At this point, however, the scholarship account actually had about 1.5 million won in it, according to the EPC. Nam lied. This was because Nam had already misappropriated money from the account, Baek stated.
4. Finally, on May 15, Lee found that Nam had embezzled public money. She asked Nam to hand her the transactions for both of the scholarship and educational expense accounts. Nam said, “Okay.”
Recent progress in the case
Nam told police about his embezzlement charge on May 19, according to the EPC’s Facebook announcement on May 28. The police stated that they were going to investigate Nam’s case after reviewing documents submitted as evidence, the EPC added. The committee also asked students to sign a petition requesting Nam to be punished severely, which it was going to submit to police to use as proof that students wanted the suspect to be dealt a harsh penalty.
Also on May 28, EPC President Baek posted an official apology on the committee’s Facebook page. She admitted that she had poorly managed public funds by giving only one person, Nam, exclusive control of the committee finances. She added that the EPC would soon hold a special student meeting to discuss the issue of disciplinary action against herself.
“I will humbly accept the result of the meeting,” wrote Baek. “I am sorry again that I failed to meet my obligation as EPC president.”
By Lee Jae-won Editor-in-Chief