[EDITORIALS]The Sins of PlagiarismA recent, humiliating incident has pushed the efforts of Korean academics back two steps and perhaps more. The November issue of Com-munications Magazine, published by an affiliate of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, announced that three Korean professors had plagiarized a research paper done by four foreign professors, including Eric G. Manning of the University of Victoria in Canada. The magazine also carried a letter of apology written by Baek Jong-wook and Hong Won-ki. Park Jong-tae did not join in writing the letter, but admitted plagiarizing and expressed regrets.
Controversy over plagiarism has a long history. Even the copying of diagrams that were designed by others is an intellectual crime, as well as a matter of morality. This internationally disgraceful case illustrates how low the morals of academia in Korea have fallen. In truth, plagiarism has long gone unchecked in Korea. College textbooks that often appear are similar to foreign textbooks, but with only the names changed. The atmosphere of academia is as such that it is considered a virtue to keep silent even when professors take their students' research and publish it under their names. How can legitimate research be done in such an environment?
Part of the reason that members of Korea's academic community have made no big deal about stealing other people's ideas is because education on plagiarism is sorely lacking. At every level of school in the United States, plagiarism is considered one of the most serious acts to occur, and if U.S. students are found to have plagiarized essays or papers, they will flunk the class or, in some cases, be expelled from the school. But in Korea, schools do not teach the ramifications of plagiarism. If professors commit plagiarism, there is no system that can bring them to justice, and the incidents are buried and generally forgotten over time.
We are living in an era where we can lift others' work with a click of a mouse. If the government wants to spare Korea further humiliation, the Education Ministry needs to educate students about plagiarism and teach them lessons when they violate the rules. Colleges also need systems to penalize academic researchers who plagiarize.