Friday, May 25, 2007

Plagiarism in Korean Academia

The Dong-A Ilbo comments on Seoul National University's drive to clamp down on plagiarism in the school. In the article a number of deans and professors at Nation's top school discuss some of the cases they caught. Interestingly though is they do not really mention the punishments. Most notably is the threat of expulsion, but no mention if that indeed has ever been carried out.

Another interesting thing is how the article starts off:

Along with the increasing number of university professors who strictly discipline students who plagiarize, it has been confirmed that Seoul National University (SNU) professors have recently taken disciplinary actions against a number of students who submitted papers that were plagiarized.

One of the more disturbing dimensions to this is many students are only doing what their role model professors are doing. Most notable recently was the head of Korea University (the nations number three school) resigned once it was revealed he plagiarized some of his academic papers. A bit more disturbing in the case though was he actually won a vote of confidence from the faculty in the wake of the scandal. 

And that is actually typical here. The past few years have seen a number of professors, and even government education ministry officials caught up in plagiarism scandals. I tend to discard the oft repeated foreigner theory of Korea failing to "understand" intellectual property in theory, however stories like this make me second guess my conclusion.

In researching this post, I ran across a funny little story and quote:

Ma Kwang-soo, a professor at Yonsei University, will be barred from teaching classes this coming semester due to charges of plagiarism, according to the Yonsei University Disciplinary Committee. The suspension will last for two months...Last April Mr. Ma published a book of poems that included one written by a former student in 1983, which he claimed as his own..."used the poem because I felt it was a pity that someone else's poem was going undiscovered, but it turned out to be a mistake." 
Mr. Ma continued: "I thought I might plagiarize because I couldn't write poetry, but I tried it for a month and was able to write 80 poems easily. I plan to write a book this semester."

You know I could write 80 poems easily as well, it does not mean they would be any good. Further, He "thought he might plagiarize", yet by his own admission he used somebody else's poem. I wonder if he understands the concept? I also love the quote "I felt it was a pity that somebody else's poem was going undiscovered". Really Mr. Ma? It seems more you were more worried about it not being discovered as YOUR poem. Seriously how hard would it be to track down the student through the alumni network and get approval if you were really worried about only the poem being "discovered".


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