News / Asia

Plagiarism Imperiling South Korea's Academic Reputation

SEOUL -  The South Korean education system has won global praise. U.S. President Barack Obama has held it up as an example, saying America should emulate some aspects of it. But, in South Korea some of the top universities are facing criticism for numerous high-profile cases of plagiarism. And, some insiders acknowledge such cheating is well entrenched.

At one of South Korea's premier educational institutions, Seoul National University, two professors are being accused of fabricating stem cell research in papers submitted to international journals.

It echoes a case at the same school in 2005 when a high-profile professor, Hwang Woo-suk, faced global condemnation for manipulating cloning experiments.

In recent months, two lawmakers also faced allegations of copying work for their doctoral dissertations. In past years, a president of a highly-regarded university and an education minister also lost their jobs when it was revealed they had also fabricated academic work.

A graduate student at Korea University, who only wants to be identified by his surname Kim, says he noticed when he was enrolled in secondary schools and colleges in the United States the concept of plagiarism was pretty well established.

“In Korea that history may not be as long. So there still isn’t a huge consensus, in general, amongst all Koreans as to what plagiarism actually means," he said. "What’s the extent of plagiarism and whether plagiarism itself is acceptable or not?”

At the Seoul National University of Education, ethics education professor Lee In-jae says all of the high-profile incidents demonstrate even top South Korean officials are insensitive to plagiarism.

The professor says such revelations cause reputations to instantly collapse. And, if South Korea's academic society ever wants to reach a world-class level then it must rid itself of such ethical problems.

When education minister, Lee Ju-ho, was asked the how seriously he takes the problem he replied it is not as bad as it used to be.

Lee says these incidents became prominent seven or eight years ago, but the problem has mainly disappeared since then because of increased awareness and training. But he says he wants to put more effort into eradicating plagiarism.

Korea University student Kim says the scant efforts being made to educate college students about the matter are actually not very effective.

“Korean universities usually have at least one class or some kind of seminar in the beginning of the semester to talk about plagiarism. But as far as I know it is also quite optional," Kim stated. "So there are a lot of people who just don’t go to the seminar.”

Professor Lee at the Seoul National University of Education  says educating students to understand it is unethical to make even seemingly minor mistakes, such as not citing references, needs to be taught in elementary schools.

The ethics educators say, if young students learn it is wrong to copy their classmates homework, then they will be able to do honest term papers when they reach university or proper research if they become professionals.

Students such as Kim have noticed that professors from the United Kingdom and the United States on his campus are having a positive effect.

“One professor in my grad school found a student plagiarizing and automatically gave that student a zero," said Kim. "And I am hearing more of those [incidents] these days.”

But so many students still appear to have no hesitation about ethical shortcuts that a lucrative online industry has been created to cater to them. Brokers match graduate students with those willing to ghostwrite. A master's thesis can be custom authored for as little as $1,400 while dissertations for a PhD are being offered from about $2,700.

A JoongAng newspaper report quotes a broker saying their main customers are businessmen and office workers lacking time to do academic research, but in a hurry to obtain advanced degrees to give them an advantage over their peers in South Korea's highly competitive society.

Additional reporting by Youmi Kim.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid