Private kindergarten owners will be subject to harsher penalties for misusing funds after three revision bills, designed to make management and accounting at preschools more transparent, were passed by the National Assembly, Monday.
|Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae, right, greets after three revision bills to improve management and accounting transparency of private kindergartens at the National Assembly plenary session in Yeouido, Seoul, Monday. /Yonhap|
Private kindergartens grabbed the headlines in October 2018 after Rep. Park Yong-jin of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea revealed a large number of related corruption cases such as accounting fraud and budget misappropriation. Private kindergartens operate on both state subsidies and tuition fees paid by parents.
The Korea Kindergarten Association (KKA) has been at odds with the government after its members were ordered to adopt the state-run Edufine accounting system. While the association had opposed Edufine, saying it infringed on their property rights, the revisions obligate all kindergartens to use the state-controlled accounting system.
Under them, anyone misusing property or income belonging to private kindergartens for personal purposes will be subject to a prison term of up to two years or a fine of 20 million won ($17,322).
Qualifications to establish and manage kindergartens will also be legislated as until now there were no specific requirements for individuals to run such institutions. Those having a history of drug use, mental illness or with criminal records are now banned from running kindergartens.
"We don't think the three revision bills are completely compatible with the reality of running private kindergartens," KKA spokesman Kim Chul said. "However, we will accept and cooperate with the government's move to implement the revisions as they were passed by the National Assembly."
The education minister also welcomed the passage of the bill.
"These revision bills would never have been passed without the full attention and support of parents. The Ministry of Education will thoroughly inspect kindergartens' tuition fees and ensure government subsidies are used for the purpose of improving early childhood education," Education Minister Yoo Eun-hae said in a statement.
Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education Superintendent Cho Hee-yeon also released a statement saying the office expects kindergartens to become reliable education institutions to which parents can entrust their children.