Shin Jeong-ah, a well known art history professor at Dongguk University, is one of the country’s better known art curators and experts.
A rising star in her field, Shin, 35, was about to add another title to her impressive resume on July 4 when she was named the artistic co-director of the 2008 Gwangju Biennale, Korea’s biggest arts event.
The official announcement was slated for Monday.
Only one problem. Shin has just been caught falsifying her academic records, including her claim to hold a doctorate from Yale University and two degrees from the University of Kansas.
Lee Sang-il, Dongguk’s dean of academic affairs, held a press conference yesterday on campus, “Yale University notified us that Shin has never registered with the school, let alone received a doctoral degree.”
The University of Kansas told Yonhap yesterday that Shin attended the school from 1992 to 1996, but did not graduate.
The university will take stern measures against Shin’s fraud, Lee said. It will also try to prevent the same thing from happening again.
Shin is not only a professor but she also oversees one of the county’s best known museums. As chief curator of the Sungkok Art Museum in central Seoul, Shin has hosted several major exhibitions, including a John Burningham 40th anniversary exhibition last year and a current show by American photographer William Wegman.
She would be the youngest art director of the Gwangju Biennale, if her appointment goes through.
The Gwangju event organizers, however, plan to hold a press conference today to revoke their initial decision.
Shin, who has been in Paris since suspicion over her background surfaced last week, plans to return to Korea on Friday, according to a source close to her.
The suspicion over her academic credentials surfaced when an official at Dongguk University told Yonhap the school had received a tip that Shin forged her academic records and submitted a fake doctoral dissertation when she applied to become a professor in 2005.
She claimed to have received a Ph.D. from Yale in 2005 and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Kansas before that.
The school said it belatedly found out that her dissertation about French poet Guillaume Apollinaire is almost identical to a previously published work by someone else.
Jang Jin-sung, a Seoul National University professor who graduated from the Department of Art History at Yale in 2004, told reporters Monday that Shin did not go to Yale.
Shin has denied the allegations.
“If I lied about my academic records, it would have been checked when the university was deciding to hire me,” she told the JoongAng Ilbo Monday from Paris.
According to Dongguk’s Lee, the school did not verify Shin’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees when she was hired. He said the school received a positive response at the time from Yale, but he did not elaborate on what that meant.
Around 700,000 people visited the 2006 Gwangju Biennale.
By Moon Gwang-lip Staff Writer/ Kwon Ho JoongAng Ilbo