News / Asia

Plagiarism Imperiling South Korea's Academic Reputation

TEXT SIZE - +
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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid