Professors Caught Plagiarizing

While students are often the ones receiving accusations of plagiarism, there are cases in which professors are also guilty of this crime. South Korea is known for a rigorous academic system. However, in 2015 two hundred South Korean professors were indicted for plagiarism and copyright violations.

The professors were from 50 different universities and committed a wide range of offenses. For example, Hwang U-seok, a professor of biotechnology published an article in Science Magazine on human embryo cloning in 2004 and was recognized as one of Time’s 100 most influential people because for this achievement. However, one year later is was revealed that the research had been faked. Another professor, Sin Jeong-ah, claimed she had a PhD from Yale and then lost her job once people discovered her entire academic background was fabricated. Many other professors also fell into this category of fictitious degrees and falsified academic records. Additionally, many of the 200 accused professors were found to have plagiarized work in their doctoral dissertations.

This wide spread academic plagiarism may seem shocking to people who are used to professors enforcing originality of their students’ work. However, similarly to the cases in Russia that I previously discussed, it is likely that there is a cultural element influencing the way this has played out.  Ethicist, Heo Nam-kyol, made the interesting statement that “under the Confucian tradition, pupils were taught to copy the words of their teachers […] instead of writing their own opinions”. This is drastically different from the approach to education we are used to in which students are forced to understand concepts and generate ideas in their own words. This different understanding of how information is passed down could lead people to feel more comfortable portraying others’ ideas as their own.

Also, in south Korea the academic system is very harsh and many students experience pressure from families. While this expreem pressure not to fail may motivate strong performance in some students it also leads to desperation and people who are taught that success is the only option no matter how they attain it. This case demonstrates that unethical use of others’ ideas can even extend to those whose job it is to inforce academic honesty, and it brings up the question of how the culture of how information is shared plays an integral role in how students handle integrity of ideas later in life.


Volodzko, David. “Korea’s Plagiarism Problem.” The Diplomat, The Diplomat, 21 Jan. 2015,

2 thoughts on “Professors Caught Plagiarizing

  1. I am always amazed that in such important documents people think they can get away with blatant plagiarism. I understand why under high pressure situations people would feel the need to produce but it almost never works in the favor of the plagiarizer.

  2. I find it interesting that there may be a religious tie to these actions in South Korea. I was asking myself why so many professors were plagiarizing, and that seems like a very applicable explanation. Cultural values influence our lives every day, and it continues to amaze me every time I am able to recognize that.

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