Mystery behind hiring of shamed art professor
Following the shocking revelation that Dongguk University art professor Shin Jeong-ah forged the academic degrees that secured her appointment and sent her rising in the local art world, suspicions are being raised that the university may have bent its own rules to allow her to join the faculty.
The Gwangju Biennale, Korea’s biggest art event, also named the 35-year-old Shin the co-director of the 2008 event last week. The foundation yesterday revoked its decision a day after her claim to having a doctorate from Yale University and two degrees from the University of Kansas was found to be a lie.
Shin, who is also the chief curator of one of the country’s best-known art museums, is only a high school graduate.
Jung Woo-taek, an art history professor at Dongguk, claimed Shin was given special favors when she was hired in the art history department in September 2005.
“There were objections from professors at that time since she studied Western art history, but our department teaches Buddhist art history,” said Jung, who was the head of the department at the Buddhist university in 2005. “But the school unilaterally made the decision to hire her.”
Shin claimed to have a Ph.D. from Yale earned in April 2005, and she also submitted what she said was her dissertation about the French poet Guillaume Apollinaire. The dissertation was found to be almost identical to a previously published work by someone else.
Dongguk allows special appointments of staff and faculty when the school judges that the applicants are extraordinarily talented, according to the school’s guidelines. But the decision is up to the head of the school, the rule stipulates, so it raises the favoritism issue, some professors say.
Lee Sang-il, Dongguk’s current dean of academic affairs, has said the school did not verify Shin’s bachelor’s and master’s degrees when she was hired. He said the school only requested Yale to confirm her doctoral degree by fax and received a positive response, but he did not elaborate.
A Seoul National University professor, who refused to be named, said the admission process was at fault.
“It doesn’t make sense at all that the school only tried to verify her record by fax. It should at least have asked her to submit her grades.”
Shin has been in Paris since the scandal began and is not answering phone calls.
By Moon Gwang-lip Staff Writer/ Kwon Ho JoongAng Ilbo [Joe@joongang.co.kr]