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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid