SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean prosecutors launched a probe on Thursday over allegations a private school stole rice and cooking oil and siphoned thousands of dollars from student meals, a spokesman said, after pupils complained of inedible food.
Seoul's education office was flooded with angry phone calls from parents this month after students at Choongam High School complained about disgusting meals and low food supplies.
A photo carried by local media showed a school lunch composed of a piece of a fried, jam-stuffed sandwich, pickled cucumber and some noodles in thin tomato soup.
Another picture showed a chunk of fish apparently fried in recycled cooking oil.
"We just throw it away. We always go out to eat instant noodles," one student told JTBC TV.
A teacher told CBS radio that oil had been reused so many times that it had turned black.
An investigation by the education office said four out of every 10 barrels of cooking oil and 20 to 30 percent of rice had been stolen, a department spokesman said.
The school's former principal and meal suppliers were among 18 people facing investigation after auditors found at least US$350,000 (S$490,000) worth of food and services had been embezzled over the past three and a half years.
Prosecutors have opened a criminal probe into the scandal and a spokesman said they would investigate.
The school has dismissed the allegation as groundless and has threatened to file a libel suit against the education office.
Cooks at the school told local newspapers they felt guilty about serving substandard food.
Choongam alumni and parents have vowed to launch their own probe into the allegations.