Seoul National University to require payments from professors with side jobs

October 22, 2015

By Kim Se-jeong

Seoul National University (SNU) is considering making it mandatory for professors who have positions outside the university as directors of private companies to give part of their income to the university.

The move is likely to draw a backlash from the 96 professors who have such side jobs. SNU has almost 2,100 professors.

According to the university Wednesday, it plans to have professors working as outside directors pay part of their annual income from the companies to the university.

The amount will be 15 percent of the anything in excess of 20 million won. For example, those who earn 50 million won per year from a company will have to give 4.5 million won to the university.

The plan was discussed during a faculty meeting on Tuesday. The university estimates it will be able to collect 430 million won per year through this plan, which will be added to the pool for student scholarships.

While professors need to obtain approval from the university to take a position as an outside director, the university has not disciplined any of those who have not sought approval. It is now considering banning such professors from taking outside directorships for the next five years if it is found they have not sought approval.

Under the university’s rules, professors can take up to two outside director positions, a rule adopted in the mid-2000s. SNU will be the first university to impose mandatory payments.

The decision is an indication of the tension between professors and the university.

Professors argue that taking appointments as outside directors is an individual freedom and should be respected, while the university said having multiple jobs can diminish the quality of their teaching and research.

An anonymous SNU professor, who is an outside director at two companies, said he was deeply disappointed at the university’s approach. “This is almost like a tax. Forcing people to make donations is stupid and only upsets the faculty.”

Negative public opinion toward educators working for private companies is also a contributing factor to the university’s decision. The former president of SNU, Lee Ki-jun, was ousted in 2002 in the middle of a scandal involving his side job outside the university.

The debate is causing the need for national-level guidelines. The Ministry of Education earlier told each university to come up with its own rules.