That was before Shin Jeong-ah’s academic credentials were revealed as false, sending her into hiding and sparking a wave of revelations of faked diplomas that are shaking up South Koreans in all walks of life — professors, actresses, a cartoonist and even a Buddhist priest.
Prosecutors are investigating and universities and companies are running sweeping background checks, while other public figures are hastily correcting “slip-ups” on their resumes.
The scandal is also prompting a renewed look at
In the latest revelation, singer-songwriter Joo Young-hoon’s radio and television gigs were canceled last week after his agent revealed that Joo had lied on air by claiming he was a graduate of
The affair began last month after 35-year-old Shin was named joint artistic director of South Korea’s 2008 Gwangju Biennale, the youngest such appointee chosen by the prestigious arts festival.
But then rumors began circulating questioning Shin’s educational background, which included bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the
A committee at
Shin has insisted her Yale degree is real and has gone to the
“She did attend KU, she just didn’t graduate.”
Meanwhile, since the Shin affair broke, hardly a day has passed without other prominent citizens coming forward to admit faked credentials or valueless college credentials, often American.
They include Lee Chang-ha, an architect and a lecturer at
Theater actress Yoon Suk-hwa, known as
Respected Buddhist priest Ji-gwang also told reporters that he never attended prestigious
Cheong So-bok, author of a recent book examining contemporary Korean society, blames conflicts between tradition and speedy development.
“Rapid modernization in recent decades clashing with traditions and Confucian beliefs has created an ethical void that fails to identify individuals as themselves — only by their labels,” he said.
Chung Jin-Soo, a theater professor at
“We need a set of fair-game rules that prevent academic credentials from being the sole judging criteria,” he said. “The vanity pervasive in Korean society leading to individuals exaggerating their academic credentials — this must stop.”