SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea's anti-corruption watchdogs visited schools on Friday in a bid to prevent parents from bribing their children's teachers on the country's annual Teachers" Day, officials said.
Members of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) said they were fighting an uphill battle to try to end the deep-rooted practice of parents offering under-the-table payoffs to teachers, known as chonji.
ACRC on Monday urged schools across the country to join the campaign, asking them to put up banners against chonji, to send letters to parents and step up inspections against practice.
On Friday, five small groups of inspectors from ACRC randomly visited schools on Teachers' Day to see how closely the watchdog's requests were followed.
"I'm afraid little attention is being paid to our recommendations," Kim Jong-Yoon, a director of the ACRC, told AFP. Many teachers were against the campaign for fear that they would be categorised as criminals, he said.
The campaign was launched after a survey by the ACRC in March showed more than 36 percent of parents living in prosperous parts of southern Seoul had offered cash gifts to their children"s teachers in exchange for better treatment for their offspring.
Bank notes or cheques, usually hidden in other innocent-looking gifts such as boxes of sweets, often exchange hands when the school opens in March, close to Teachers' Day, and at the autumn harvest holidays.
In one case, ACRC inspectors in March barged into a classroom in one school to open a package left by a parent moments earlier.
"They found hundreds of dollars inside a box of candies. The teacher said he did not expect the cash to be there," Kim Jong-Yoon said.
In other cases, teachers were caught receiving expensive designer clothes or sets of cosmetics, he said.
Following reports of ACRC"s inspections, local dailies reported receiving many phone calls and e-mails from parents expressing support for the crackdown.
One wrote to the JoongAng daily that she offered the equivalent of 70 dollars to a teacher. The teacher was quoted as telling the parent: "Well, that's barely enough to buy half pair of shoes."