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First lady continues to be mired in plagiarism allegations

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First lady Kim Keon-hee, right, attends the ceremony for the 77th National Liberation Day with her husband President Yoon Suk-yeol at the presidential office in Seoul, Aug. 15. Korea Times photo by Seo Jae-hoon
First lady Kim Keon-hee, right, attends the ceremony for the 77th National Liberation Day with her husband President Yoon Suk-yeol at the presidential office in Seoul, Aug. 15. Korea Times photo by Seo Jae-hoon

DPK submits bills mandating independent counsel to investigate first lady

By Lee Hae-rin

First lady Kim Keon-hee has come under fire again, as a group of professors has reignited the allegations that she plagiarized her Ph.D. dissertation and other published papers. She had been cleared of the allegations last month following an eight-month probe by her alma mater, Kookmin University, which stated ultimately that the "statute of limitations of five years for verifying the papers has expired."

The group of 16 professors from 14 academic associations, called the Pan-academic National Verification Group for the Verification of Suspicions of Plagiarism of First Lady Kim Keon-hee, held a press conference to unveil their findings verifying Kim's academic misconduct at the Press Center in Seoul, Tuesday. The group claimed that all of Kim's academic works are "indisputably entangled with plagiarism," and that they all violate basic academic standards.

According to the group's findings, a total of 220 out of the 860 sentences in Kim's Ph.D. dissertation that she produced when she attended Kookmin University's Graduate School of Techno Design in 2008 were copied and pasted without citing the original sources.

The plagiarized sentences include 40 sentences from a research paper by Gu Yeon-sang, a professor of general education at Sookmyung Women's University, 24 sentences from newspaper articles and 146 sentences from "Happy Campus," an online dissertation platform popular among university students here, where reports and essays are sold at a price of around 500 won ($0.36) each.

The group said that Kim's other academic papers also directly quoted other scholars' theses, as well as websites and blogs of renowned fortune tellers and saju (a form of traditional fortune-telling based on a person's birth year, month, date and time) readers, without citing the original sources.

The emergency planning committee of Kookmin University's alumni association called upon the university to respond to the group's findings and reveal the details of its eight-month probe, through which it claims to have cleared Kim of any plagiarism allegations.

Earlier on Aug. 1, Kookmin University had said it hadn't found any serious violations of the academic code of conduct or plagiarism from its eight-month probe into Kim's Ph.D. dissertation and other academic publications. The university said Kim's papers contain some "shortcomings" and were "inappropriate according to the current standards," but that these "insufficiencies" don't constitute academic misconduct and only scored between 7 to 17 percent on the plagiarism index in a plagiarism checker program.

Based on the work of the academic group, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has announced that it will introduce the Kim Keon-hee Special Prosecutor Law, a bill to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the allegations against Kim.

Rep. Park Hong-geun, fourth from left, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, speaks during the party's Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly, Wednesday. Yonhap
Rep. Park Hong-geun, fourth from left, floor leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, speaks during the party's Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly, Wednesday. Yonhap

DPK floor leader Rep. Park Hong-geun said during the party's Supreme Council meeting at the National Assembly, Wednesday, that the party will propose the bill to enable the prosecution to form a special team to investigate the multiple allegations against the first lady, including academic plagiarism, academic fraud, stock price manipulation and bribery.

During the confirmation hearing of Prosecutor General nominee Lee One-seok, Monday, DPK lawmakers questioned him on why the prosecutorial body has been hesitating to investigate the allegations against Kim. The nominee requested the National Assembly pass a bill to guarantee that the prosecutor general has the right to lead the case.

The DPK members of the Education Committee also held a press conference at the National Assembly, Wednesday, on the academic group's plagiarism findings and to demand that the first lady apologize to the people as well as submit to an investigation in order to be held accountable for her alleged misconduct.

The party said it is also considering filing a complaint against Kookmin University.

Meanwhile, the ruling People Power Party (PPP) questioned the credibility of the Pan-academic National Verification Group's findings, claiming that the group supports the DPK and has political intentions.

"As the group's name may suggest, the verification group pretends to make a scholastic presentation on behalf of the academic community … However, the bottom line is that it is merely a political organization that supports DPK leader Lee Jae-myung," PPP spokesperson Rep. Park Jung-ha commented on the PPP's website, Tuesday.

Park said that some of the 14 academic associations that are part of the organization had openly supported Lee during the presidential campaign earlier in March and called on them to "stop deceiving people under the pretext of academic investigation."


Lee Hae-rin lhr@koreatimes.co.kr


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